Wintry blast knocks out power, closes schools, leads to dozens of car crashes
Freezing rain and snow across the province cut power to more than 300,000 clients, forced two school boards to close, and caused other problems that sent people to hospital.
The precipitation began as freezing rain on Sunday and shifted between snow and rain several times, playing havoc with tree branches, power lines, and roadways in Laval, the Laurentians, and the surrounding areas.
"Freezing rain is one of the worst weather events that we can have for an electric grid because it is heavy, because it makes branches break, so it's a lot of work for our teams," said Hydro-Quebec spokesperson Maxence Huard-Lefebvre.
The power failures started on Monday and at its peak around 9 p.m. more than 315,000 homes and businesses were in the dark.
Hydro-Quebec crews worked around the clock but with more than 600 separate points of failure, the utility said it would be a long time before electricity was restored to everyone.
"We have 360 crews on site so it means about 700 people on site to restore power as fast as possible," said Huard-Lefebvre.
As of 4 p.m. Tuesday, Hydro-Quebec reported about 213,000 customers remained in the dark, largely in Laval, Lanaudiere and the Laurentians.
High winds and freezing rain rolled into the area north of Montreal on Monday, leaving ice accumulation on trees and knocking down power lines.
200,000 won’t be restored before Wednesday
Quebec's public security minister says most of the customers currently in the dark won't have electricity restored before Wednesday morning.
Genevieve Guilbault told reporters Tuesday in Quebec City that winds and snow are creating problems for Hydro-Quebec crews on the ground and they won't be able to complete the repairs.
"There are heavy winds, and the weather isn't amenable for this kind of work, so the vast majority should get power back early Wednesday," Guilbault said.
Premier Francois Legault called on citizens to exercise caution and get in touch with their towns if they needed a place to stay. "There are many families in Quebec who risk spending a second night without electricity, so I'm asking everyone to be prudent," Legault said.
Laval hit hard
Laval was particularly hard hit, with a little more than a third of residents there still without electricity.
Elementary, high schools and adult education centre in the Laval School Board will continue to be closed on Wednesday due to power outages.
Some professional training centres (Compétences-2000, metallurgy, horticulture, Le Chantier, IPIQ) as well as administrative services in the board are open.
Laval Mayor Marc Demers urged families and neighbours to look out for one another. "If you have members of your family -- parents, brothers, sisters -- who are in a zone that's lacking electricity, check in on their situation to make sure we're not forgetting someone in distress," Demers said.
Carbon monoxide poisoning
Trying to cook and stay warm without electricity proved dangerous for two households in Laval.
A family of four was hospitalized after they brought a charcoal barbecue inside. They were overcome by the carbon monoxide from incomplete combustion and called for help.
In a separate incident a man was overcome by toxic fumes after the exhaust from an emergency generator entered his house.
In both cases the individuals were taken to hospital to be treated for carbon monoxide poisoning.
Those incidents prompted the Laval fire department to go door-to-door to make sure people were not taking dangerous measures to heat their homes and check on seniors and those most vulnerable.
Sylvain Gariepy, operations chief for the Laval fire department urged people not to use outdoor cooking implements inside.
The power failures convinced the Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board and the Commission Scolaire de Laval to close for Tuesday.
The city of Laval also opened two community centres to the public in order for residents to warm up, take showers, and charge phones and other devices. Those warming shelters are at 6500 Arthur Sauvé and 455 Lausanne St.
Canada Post also alerted customers in the greater Montreal area that some people may not receive their mail on Tuesday because of the weather.
Pileup on Highway 20
The wintry blast was touted as a factor in several car crashes on Tuesday.
Early in the morning there was an eight-vehicle pileup on Highway 640 in Terrebonne that sent several people to hospital.
Around 11:15 a.m. as the temperature dropped and rain turned to ice, at least eight drivers crashed on Highway 20 West near the Ville St. Pierre Interchange.
Police closed the highway to clean up the mess but nobody was seriously hurt.
A short distance away an 18-wheeler jackknifed on the highway, causing more problems for those attempting to drive in the area.
Freezing rain, snow in the forecast
The freezing rain and snow will continue until Wednesday.
Freezing rain warnings remained in place Tuesday afternoon for eastern Ontario and areas south of Montreal, while heavy snow fell north of the St. Lawrence River.
"That's where we could see upwards of 15 cm of snow," said CTV Montreal weather specialist Lori Graham.
Montreal is wedged in between the two systems and could end up with freezing rain or snow.
The tail end of the storm system is accompanied by strong winds, and Montreal will likely see gusts of more than 50 km/h.
Snow will continue to fall over the Eastern Townships, Gaspé, and New Brunswick throughout Wednesday, and ease to flurries late Tuesday in Montreal.
Wednesday and Thursday will be dry with highs around 5 C in Montreal, while Friday will see a high of 10 C but it will be wet with intermittent showers.
- With a report from Sidhartha Banerjee of The Canadian Press