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Spring storm knocks out power to tens of thousands across Quebec, Ontario

People make their way through the snow as a spring storm dumped more than 20 centimetres of snow, Thursday, April 4, 2024, in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

MONTREAL — A spring storm that hit Quebec and Ontario Thursday knocked out power to tens of thousands of customers, closed schools and blanketed Montreal with heavy, wet snow.

As of 11 p.m., a little more than 60,000 homes and businesses in Quebec were without electricity. The province's power utility said the affected area ranged from Gatineau in the west to Montreal's suburbs, with strong gusts and broken tree branches bringing down power lines. 

"Outages are caused by vegetation that is weakened by heavy snow and gusty winds," Hydro-Québec said on social media, adding that about 1,200 workers were in the field to repair infrastructure.

The Laurentians region north of Montreal had the most outages, with more than 23,000 customers in the dark. 

Hydro-Québec said that with the exception of a few more complex cases, service should be restored for virtually all customers by Friday evening. It said about 297,000 customers were affected by an outage at the height of the event.

The utility said earlier Thursday that in many places, teams found significant damage, including poles and other equipment that need to be replaced.

The conditions led several school boards in Montreal and surrounding areas to declare a snow day. Elsewhere in southern Quebec, some individual schools had to close because they had no electricity.

In Old Montreal, Isabelle Grégoire, a local tour guide waiting for tourists to arrive, took the wintry blast in stride, noting it would likely melt in a few days.

"Well, you know, it's life in Canada. It's life in Montreal," Grégoire said. "In the springtime, you always have to carry the four seasons in your bags, and it's the way it goes."

Jean-Philippe Bégin, a meteorologist with Environment Canada, said about 25 centimetres had fallen in the Montreal area and up to 35 centimetres in some parts of the Eastern Townships region.

"The storm system is slowly moving east and will affect regions in central Quebec and towards the eastern part of Gaspé starting this evening or overnight," he said.

The Charlevoix region, the Lower St-Lawrence and eastern Gaspé were forecast to receive similar snowfalls, with up to 40 centimetres expected in the Gaspé area.

"So we expect a lot of snow for them as well," Bégin said, adding winds would remain strong throughout Thursday.

“We had gusts of nearly 60 kilometres per hour throughout the night in a fairly widespread manner," said Bégin. "When we look near Quebec City, the gusts are even stronger, between around 70 and 80 km/h."

Ontario's hydro utility said about 8,800 customers were still without power at around 11 p.m. Hydro One said it had restored power to more than 300,000 customers since Tuesday evening.

Special advisories covered areas from southwestern Ontario to New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, where heavy, wet snow was also expected.

Some flights in Montreal and Toronto were delayed or cancelled due to the inclement weather.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 4, 2024.

— With files from Mathieu Paquette and Thomas MacDonald.

Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press

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