Snow, freezing rain, frigid weather expected through weekend

Mother Nature may throw a wrench into many Canadians' plans on one of the busiest travel periods of the year, as a messy mix of weather is expected across the country starting today and through the weekend.

Environment Canada has posted warnings and special weather statements for much of southern and eastern Ontario, southern and central Quebec, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia.

Forecasters say the freezing rain will quickly change to rain near the shores of Lake Ontario on Friday morning, but periods of freezing rain will persist into the evening.

"We're looking at really a taste of what's to come in terms of the weather today," said CBC meteorologist Jay Scotland early Friday.

"So we are seeing some freezing rain into southern Ontario working its way east now ... Folks commuting in from Kitchener–Waterloo, Cambridge, western portions of the Golden Horseshoe — this is where we're looking at that ice really starting to stack up, some ice accumulation taking place right there now as we have been seeing freezing rain for the last few hours."

He said freezing rain has also been reported in Kingston and Peterborough on Friday morning.

Scotland said the worst of the weather in certain regions is expected to hit Saturday night and into Sunday morning.

"Sunday is going to be the day that we will see the bigger of the two storms moving into southern Ontario, southern Quebec and then continuing to push east to affect Atlantic Canada," he said.

"So that's the day you're really going to want to look ahead and make sure your flight is not cancelled or delayed, and allow extra time to get to the airports as traffic will be going very slow on Sunday."

Meanwhile, the Ottawa Valley and eastern Quebec will see another 10 to 15 centimetres of snow.

Forecasters say regions affected by freezing rain could get as much as five millimetres of ice buildup in some areas.

The ice can also form around powerlines, causing power outages, said another CBC meteorologist, Johanna Wagstaffe.

Environment Canada said uncertainty exists about which regions will be most severely affected, "but it appears that areas along the Highway 401 corridor have the greatest likelihood for significant freezing rain."

"There is a risk for widespread power outages due to fallen tree limbs and power lines. For areas farther north, there is also the possibility for significant snowfall and ice pellets from Lake Huron eastward to the Quebec border," forecasters said.

Meanwhile, Vancouver-area residents could face as much as 10 centimetres of snow and temperatures hovering near the freezing mark, according to Environment Canada.

"[In] Vancouver, already three centimetres of snow on the ground which is a lot for folks to be contending with in that city," Scotland said Friday morning.

"They're not used to driving in the snow. A lot of folks do not own snow tires on the West Coast, so we're looking at a messy one in Vancouver."

Areas of the Fraser Valley, Sunshine Coast and Vancouver Island are also subject to snowfall warnings with as much as 15 centimetres expected to fall in higher terrain.

In north and central B.C., eight to 10 centimetres of snow is expected with colder temperatures. Showers are expected on Saturday with warmer temperatures and rain in the forecast for Sunday.

Frigid conditions will continue in the Prairies Friday with temperatures reaching –25 C. A mixture of sun and cloud is expected on the weekend with a possibility of light flurries as the chilly temperatures remain.

A windchill warning has been issued in northern Manitoba, with windchill temperatures hovering near –50 C through to Friday morning.

The weather is likely to affect travel plans on what is expected to be the busiest day for travel in the country.

Air Canada has already waived its penalty fees for customers on affected flights to re-book tickets.

WestJet and Air Canada have both issued travel advisories for airports they expect to be affected by the weather, including:

Toronto's Pearson International and Billy Bishop airports.

Montreal's Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport.

Ottawa's Macdonald-Cartier International Airport.

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