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What you need to know on Saturday for the holiday storm hitting eastern Ontario, western

Eastern Ontario is still blanketed with winter weather warnings because of a messy mix of precipitation and high winds that began Thursday night.

With the storm expected to continue through the weekend, here is a list of things you need to know going into the holidays including utility outages, transit and road conditions and updates from municipalities in the region.

Latest weather forecast

According to the latest update from Environment Canada Saturday morning, the storm which hit the region Thursday evening will continue to bring significant precipitation through Saturday, though its form depends on where you live.

The agency says snow and local blowing snow are continuing in Ottawa today and possibly through the night.

  • If the power or data on your device is low, get your storm updates on CBC Lite. It’s our low-bandwidth, text-only website.

Temperatures are expected to plummet creating the conditions for a potential flash freeze.

Wind gusts of 70 to 80 km/h will make those temperatures feel even colder. With the wind chill it will feel near –20 and blowing snow will also develop.

The agency has issued a blizzard warning for Kingston, Brockville and surrounding areas. It warned those conditions, which started Friday evening, will continue through Saturday morning and possibly into the early afternoon. That region is expecting gusts of 90 to 100 km/h, and a whopping 20 to 30 centimetres of snowfall by Sunday.

Lake effect snow is forecast through the rest of the weekend, so it will likely be a white, but messy Christmas.

Traffic and OC Transpo

Highway 401 between Maitland, Ont. and Port Hope, Ont. is closed due to unsafe driving conditions, the OPP said.

The stretch of highway has been closed since around midnight Friday, when plows were forced to stop because of poor road conditions. A few snow plows had returned to service by Saturday morning, but Police estimated whiteout conditions have reduced visibility on the highway to around five feet.

A traffic light with no power.
A traffic light at an Ottawa intersection loses power during Friday’s storm. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

The OPP said 35 vehicles had been left in the ditch overnight between Mallorytown, Ont. and Joyceville, Ont., because it was not possible to tow them.

Over 500 collisions have been reported in the province, the OPP said in a tweet early Saturday morning, although police were not able to provide an estimate specific to eastern Ontario.

Ontario Provincial Police said there were multiple collisions on highways 416 and 417 and some temporary road closures, though they had reopened by Friday night.

No serious injuries or fatalities were reported.

Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation said it is preparing to keep roads as clear as possible during the snowfall. In a statement, the ministry said it has more than 1,100 pieces of equipment ready to be deployed. It also used anti-icing liquid proactively on roads in advance of winter storms.

The city is warning transit riders to expect delays Saturday as the storm continues to wreak havoc on travel.

On Friday, the city reported several problems on the roads, such as traffic signals not working due to power outages. Late Friday afternoon, Ottawa police said there had been 28 collisions, mostly vehicles sliding off the road.

All roads in Prince Edward County were closed by police later Friday night because of “zero visibility and poor road conditions.”

For updates on closures and reopenings, check the Ministry of Transportation’s traffic account here.

Planes and trains

Hundreds of passengers have been trapped on VIA Rail trains between Toronto and Montreal Friday night and into Saturday morning, after several trips experienced significant delays. Passengers told CBC they’ve been stuck onboard for up to 17 hours with few updates from staff.

VIA Rail hasn’t given an official reason for the delay, but photos and accounts from passengers point to a tree that had fallen on one of the trains Friday night.

One train departing Ottawa has been officially cancelled, but would-be passengers at the station say they aren’t able to book alternative trips.

On Friday, VIA Rail reported significant and minor delays for trains arriving in Ottawa from Toronto.

A train heading from Ottawa to Toronto Friday night was delayed because a switch had frozen.

You can check the departures for Via Rail in case the storm affects travel times.

Some departures out of the Ottawa airport and some arrivals have been cancelled, while others are delayed, so make sure to check the airport’s website before heading out the door.

As of Friday night, most flights on Dec. 24 were listed as “on time” but several were cancelled and delayed.

Westjet cancelled 140 flights at five airports in Ontario and Quebec, affecting flights at Ottawa International Airport on Friday.

Hydro outages

Map showing Hydro Ottawa outages as of 8 a.m.
As of 8 a.m., these were the outages appearing on Hydro Ottawa’s map. (Hydro Ottawa)

As of about 10 a.m. Saturday, Hydro-Québec was reporting more than 17,500 customers in the Outaouais were experiencing outages.

Hydro Ottawa, meanwhile, was reporting a few small outages across the city. Check the outages map to see if your area is affected.

Crews have already restored power to more than 100,000 customers from when the storm began Thursday night through to Friday night, a release said.

Hydro Ottawa said standby crews have been arranged in 24-hour rotations to respond to any issues.

A few hundred customers in Ottawa Valley communities were dealing with outages, according to a Hydro One outage map.

Municipal updates, parking bans

The City of Ottawa has declared a rare significant weather event and warns residents it could take longer than usual to clear roads, sidewalks and bike lanes.

The city also said garbage and recycling collection is not expected to be impacted at this point.

A winter weather parking ban for Ottawa ended at 7 a.m. Saturday, though the city is asking people to stay off the roads as much as possible.

The City of Gatineau has also issued a winter parking ban starting midnight Friday, until the notice is lifted. The city said there will be an update given Saturday at 3 p.m.

The City of Ottawa said it has expanded its shelter services for people experiencing homelessness in light of the storm.

The hostel at 75 Nicholas St., Jim Durrell Arena and Dempsey Community Centre, are open to anyone who needs to warm up during the weekend as emergency shelters. 

Outreach teams will also be working to make sure people have cold-weather gear and help connect them to shelters if they need.

Residents who see someone out in the elements that may need a place to stay are asked to call 311.

Recreation closures

All branches of the Ottawa Public Library will be open Saturday.

The City of Ottawa said recreational and cultural facilities with scheduled programs, events or rentals will be open.

Museums and galleries that will be closed in Ottawa Saturday are:

  • Canadian Museum of History (closed until Dec. 27).
  • Canadian War Museum (closed until Dec. 27).
  • Canadian Museum of Nature (reopening Dec. 26).
  • Canada Aviation and Space Museum (reopening Dec. 26).
  • Canada Agriculture and Food Museum (reopening Dec. 26).
  • Canada Science and Technology Museum (reopening Dec. 26).
  • National Gallery of Canada.
  • Ottawa Art Gallery (reopening Jan. 2).

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