The Sureté du Quebec responded to more than 100 car crashes in the violent winter storm.

The late winter storm brought more than 35 centimetres of snow to southern and central Quebec, but the danger came from the wind, blowing at 40 kilometres per hour in and around Montreal, making driving conditions very difficult.

Around 3 p.m. Tuesday, a pile-up involving several tractor-trailers in St. Zotique, west of Montreal, had forced the closure of Highway 20 West. One truck driver suffered critical injuries in the crash.

A short time later, a second crash happened a few kilometres away, also involving 18-wheelers.

The SQ said that three people were badly hurt in those crashes, and that 20,000 L of a toxic substance called sodium hypochlorite spilled across the roadway.

Christian Blanchette, a regional environmental emergency co-ordinator, said the substance is similar to bleach, but very concentrated, and was contained in the highway median. He said the snow turned the material into a jelly, making it easy to recover.

Highway 20 in both directions in the area was closed for several hours.

Ontario Provincial Police closed Highway 401 after an 18-wheeler carrying a toxic load crashed and released dangerous materials in the area.

A hazardous materials team was on the scene as at least one person died.

Shortly before 4 p.m. the Sureté du Quebec closed Highway 10 near Highway 55, in Magog, after a collision involving up to 50 vehicles.

Four people were rushed to hospital, including two pregnant women.

Everyone is expected to survive with what police describe as minor injuries.

In another crash blamed on the weather, one man died south of Trois-Rivieres when his vehicle collided with a bridge pillar on Highway 55.

Police were also kept busy with a pileup involving about five vehicles, including a provincial police cruiser, on Highway 10 near Eastman in the Eastern Townships. Police say some people suffered minor injuries.

On Tuesday evening, on Highway 40 westbound in the Assumption area northeast of Montreal, about 15 vehicles were involved in another pileup blamed on poor driving conditions. There were no serious injuries reported in that crash.


Several drivers were stuck overnight on Highway 13 south in Dorval. Drivers were unable to advance and some had to abandon their vehicle and leave the highway on foot.

Dozens of others waited in their car for hours. Some of them ran out of gas.

Firefighters had to help people get out of their cars Wednesday morning as buses were sent to pick them up.

Shortly before 7 a.m. on Wednesday, Highway 13 south remained closed between Highways 20 and 40.

Hundreds of flights have been cancelled in and out of Montreal, and Air Canada has promised to waive fees to make other travel arrangements.


Heavier snow further east

The Eastern Townships, Quebec City, Beauce and Charlevoix will need to brace for as much as 50 centimetres by the time the storm ends.

Blizzard warnings are also in place in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont.  New York City could be inundated with as much as 45 centimetres of snow.

A planned complete night closure of the Jacques-Cartier Bridge Tuesday night for repairs and light installation has been canceled due to the impending snow storm.

Virtually all schools are closed.

Too soon to remove winter tires: CAA

CAA is recommending drivers keep their winter tires on. Though drivers are legally allowed to remove their tires as of March 15, the auto association suggests keeping them on until the end of April.

"Winter tires are more adapted for this kind of temperature," explained CAA spokesperson Annie Gauthier. "The rubber on the tires is more flexible so it means they will adhere better on the surface of the roads and in that way will keep people safer on the roads."

While the temperature is not quite as brisk as over the weekend, the Montreal area is still experiencing colder than seasonal temperatures. Tuesday will see a high of -6, and there will be a high of -4 on Wednesday.

As for the weekend, another weaker storm will move through Saturday into Sunday morning bringing another light round of snow.