Winter storm causes havoc across Canada, disrupts holiday travel

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OTTAWA (Reuters) – High winds, freezing rain and heavy snow have closed schools, cut power to homes and canceled flights across Canada on Friday. A powerful winter storm has ravaged across Canada, prompting authorities to warn people to refrain from going out and stay indoors. worsening situation.

The storm is linked to the same freezing weather system that blanketed much of the United States ahead of the Christmas holiday weekend, disrupting travel plans and forcing more than a million homes and businesses to lose power.

According to Environment Canada meteorologist Steve Frithfeder, about two-thirds of Canadians will be affected by the storm as it travels across Canada’s most populous provinces of Ontario and Quebec and towards the Canadian Atlantic. expected to have an impact.

“We expect storms every winter, and this is significant,” he said. “We are seeing different weather types with different impacts… impacting a very large population base in a short period of time.”

According to the US Global Change Research Program, winter storms have increased in frequency and intensity over the past 70 years. According to the Environmental Defense Fund, this is due in part to climate change, as more water evaporates into the atmosphere as the planet warms, increasing overall precipitation.

Canada’s second largest airline, WestJet Airlines, has aggressively canceled all flights at airports in Toronto, Ottawa and Quebec, citing inclement weather. The largest airline, Air Canada (AC.TO), also warned of delays and cancellations.

Toronto’s Pearson Airport, Canada’s busiest airport, canceled about 320 flights, about a third of all scheduled flights on Friday, according to flight-tracking website FlightAware. 200 flights were delayed.

Alberta, Canada’s major cattle producing region, received an extreme cold weather warning from Environment Canada.

Karin Schmidt, head of beef production and expansion for the Alberta Beef Producers Industry Group, said some farmers are deploying portable windbreaks and using wooded areas to keep herds out. It protects against potentially lethal winds.

Cold temperatures can kill cattle, but such deaths are rare, and Schmidt said he knew nothing this week.

In Ontario, storms have reduced cattle traffic to feedlots and slaughterhouses, but the holiday season is just slow, said Jack Chaffe, who runs a 2,000-head feedlot.

Power companies in Canada’s capital, Ottawa, said they were working to restore power to more than 90,000 customers by noon and repair an additional 10,000 outages.

Ontario Police Sergeant Kelly Schmidt said police had received reports of up to 100 vehicles involved in multiple crashes that blocked a major highway near London, Ontario.

“It’s going to be a tough day for many drivers today with the wind and snow blowing,” Schmidt said in a video message posted on Twitter. “The best places are away from the highway.”

Reported by Ismail Shakil, Ottawa and Rod Nickel, Winnipeg.Editing by Josie Kao

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