12/28/2011 07:40 EST | Updated 02/27/2012 05:12 EST

Flash Freeze Causes Travel Woes In Ontario, Quebec

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A blast of wintry weather with snow, sleet and flash freezing has caused flight cancellations and delays in southern Ontario and Quebec and made the morning commute difficult.

Air Canada and WestJet issued travel advisories telling their customers to check the status of their flights before heading to the airport as the storm front moves eastward. The advisory was for travellers arriving or landing in Ottawa, Kingston, Ont., Toronto, Montreal and Quebec City.

Air Canada cancelled flights from Toronto to Kingston, from Toronto to Quebec City and from Ottawa to Montreal. WestJet cancelled at least one morning flight from Montreal to Toronto.

Environment Canada issued a special weather statement for southern Ontario on Tuesday, warning of a flash freeze. In the Greater Toronto Area, temperatures dropped 10 to 15 degrees overnight.

The storm is blamed for knocking out electricity to more than 1,000 people in the Caledon area, just north of Toronto. A smaller number of homes were affected near Newmarket and north of Clarington.

1 dead, 3 hurt in highway crash

A collision involving a tractor-trailer and several cars on Highway 401 between Yonge Street and Avenue Road in Toronto around 8 p.m. Tuesday left one man dead and three others injured. One media report said the driver of the tractor-trailer had pulled over onto the shoulder of the westbound lanes to clean his windshield when a car crashed into the truck’s rear.

There were flash-freezing conditions in several parts of the Greater Toronto Area, particularly in the 905 region. CBC's Neil Herland said there were slushy roads in Brampton and Caledon, and partially snow-covered roads in Vaughan, Richmond Hill and Markham.

The system continued to bring a wintry mix of snow and sleet to areas including Hamilton, Niagara, Kitchener-Waterloo, Kingston and cottage country. Less than five centimetres of snow was forecast for the GTA, with 10 centimetres expected north of Highway 401 and close to 15 centimetres north of Collingwood.

As the system tracks east, it was expected to bring 15-20 centimetres of snow to the Ottawa area by the end of the day.

The City of Ottawa dispatched about 600 workers to clear roads and sidewalks Tuesday night. Snowplow drivers said the city's roads were icing up as temperature dropped to –8 C, although it felt like –18 C with the wind chill.

At least two morning flights were cancelled at Ottawa airport and five were delayed. Police reported more than 150 accidents on roads in the Ottawa Valley since snow started falling Tuesday night.

By Wednesday afternoon, enough snow had fallen for the city to open tobogganing hills in the area.

A cold front is sweeping in behind the system, bringing winds gusting 60 to 70 km/h and freezing temperatures to southern Ontario and Quebec.

Quebec spared predicted snowfall amounts

The storm system was supposed to bring anywhere from 15 to 40 centimetres of snow to several regions of Quebec Tuesday night, but most areas received only a dusting of snow. Still, Transport Quebec was urging drivers to take it easy on the roads because of snow and icy conditions.

For southern and central areas of Quebec, precipitation arrived mainly as rain, although a few centimetres of snow were expected to fall in Montreal and Quebec City later Wednesday.

The worst-hit areas as the system moved in Tuesday were in the Abitibi and the Saguenay regions, where roads were snow-covered with reduced visibility.

On the East Coast, the weather system was expected to bring strong winds and heavy rain. Temperatures hit 10 C in a number of communities in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

Environment Canada issued weather warnings for parts of Nova Scotia, including the Halifax area, where the threat of heavy rain closed the city's main outdoor skating rink.