Eastern Canada digs out from major snowstorm


A huge snowstorm blanketed eastern Canada on Wednesday, closing schools, grounding hundreds of flights and forcing many workers to stay home as tens of thousands of plows toiled to clear roads.

Big white fluffy snowflakes began falling Tuesday afternoon, with more than 30 centimeters (12 inches) accumulated on the ground by the next morning and more on the way, according to weather forecasts.

Wind gusts up to 70 kilometers (44 miles) per hour were also expected in the evening, blowing snow and severely reducing visibility from Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal to the Atlantic coast provinces.

A winter storm warning was in place for much of the region and travel was not advised.

Nearly 250 flights were canceled in Montreal since Tuesday, while travelers described disruptions at the country’s biggest airport in Toronto, where flight cancellations topped 400, as a nightmare.

In Ottawa, residents sweated under toques and heavy parkas trying to dig out. The odd commuter on skis was spotted headed to work. Others wore snowshoes.

Public broadcaster CBC Radio started reporting the near-record dump in height of dog breeds — from a Beagle to a Great Dane, and invited kids to call in to share their “snow day” stories after scheduled guests canceled.

Ice sculptures for the city’s annual Winterlude festival, meanwhile, were wrapped to protect them from snow, ice pellets, possible freezing rain and strong winds.

In Toronto, administrators took the rare step of closing all schools and authorities reported more than 60 road accidents and a few power outages, while in Montreal, kids turned icy stairs outside their homes into toboggan runs.

And in several parts, police patrolled streets on snowmobiles.

No injuries were reported.

According to Environment Canada meteorologists, the late winter storm was caused by a “Colorado low,” forming in the U.S. state and picking up moisture and warmth from the Gulf of Mexico before heading north.