High winds and icy conditions leave many without power in Ontario and Quebec

MONTREAL — Extreme weather conditions were expected to continue in parts of northern Ontario and Quebec on Thursday evening after a sharp cold front with high winds hit both provinces, knocking out power lines and leaving tens of thousands of people in the dark Wednesday night.

More than 20,000 households and businesses in Quebec were still without power as of 4:30 p.m. Thursday, down from a high of more than 250,000 Wednesday night, Hydro-Québec reported. It said strong winds caused major damage along parts of its network, downing trees and breaking some poles.

The widespread outages forced dozens of schools to close and paralyzed the light-rail train network that connects Montreal with suburbs across the St. Lawrence River.

The Réseau Express Métropolitain was back up and running Thursday morning after a Wednesday power loss brought three of its automatic trains — including one crossing the 3.4-kilometre-long Champlain Bridge — to an unexpected halt, temporarily trapping passengers inside.

Environment Canada recorded wind gusts above 90 kilometres per hour as the cold front swept across Quebec. In several cities and towns, temperatures plunged by more than 20 degrees in just six hours.

Extreme cold warnings persisted across parts of northern Quebec and Ontario Thursday afternoon with wind chill values expected to hit around -40 in some areas overnight. Flash freeze alerts were also in effect for the coast of Labrador as Environment Canada warned temperatures could fall to as low as -20 C.

Many schools across Nova Scotia and New Brunswick also closed Thursday as the provinces contended with their own power outages due to high winds.

At one point, more than 30,000 Nova Scotia Power customers were without electricity, but that number dropped to just over 450 by Thursday afternoon. In New Brunswick, 1,900 NB Power Customers were still without electricity at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, down from 20,000 at the height of the wind storm.

Ontario utility company Hydro One reported Thursday afternoon that 7,400 customers were still in the dark. It said earlier in the day that it had restored power to around 115,000 customers, but an updated figure was not available in the afternoon.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 29, 2024.

The Canadian Press