Far-reaching storm sweeps North America, impacting millions ahead of Christmas

Travel across Canada and the U.S. is being widely impacted by the colossal storm

Flight cancellations, school closures, and power outages – millions of North Americans hunkered down Friday as a sprawling winter storm stretched a distance of 3,000 km – from the Gulf of Mexico to the shorelines of James Bay.


North America Storm - Dec. 23, 2022

The winter storm began impacting parts of the U.S. and Canada Thursday night, just ahead of one of the busiest travel weekends of the year.

Various school boards announced closures across Ontario and Quebec a day before the storm was set to hit.

WATCH: Whiteout conditions plague Laurentians as thousands remain without power

Flights were cancelled or delayed from coast-to-coast in Canada Friday morning. WestJet announced it was cancelling flights out of B.C. and Ontario due to winter storms ahead of the busy holiday weekend. The backlog at large airports such as Toronto’s Pearson International was creating a backlog at regional airports, such as Halifax Stanfield International, according to CTV News. By 9 a.m. Friday morning, airlines had cancelled 107 flights in and out of Montreal-Trudeau International Airport, with more delayed, CBC News reported. Meanwhile in the U.S., more than 4,400 flights were cancelled over a two-day period between Thursday and Friday.

SEE ALSO: High impact winter storm hits Ontario with blizzard conditions, outages

Residents were urged not to travel unless absolutely necessary.

“The less traffic that’s out there, the easier it is for [road maintenance] crews to get their job done,” said Sgt. Kerry Schmidt of the Ontario Provincial Police. “If you don’t need to be on the roads, this is a great time to stay home, wait for the system to pass, wait for the salters and plows to clear the highways before you head out. If you do absolutely need to be out on the roads, pay close attention to the traffic around you, including the clearing and salting operations, give them space to do their job. Their focus is on the efforts of the road maintenance, and these crews are going to be going non-stop until the system is done.”

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As conditions continued to deteriorate, the OPP West Region was advising against any travel along the Highway 401/402 corridor in southwestern Ontario, where dozens of collisions were being reported.

Before dawn on Friday morning, between 5-15 cm of snow was already reported in parts of northern Ontario, with more than 5 cm recorded in the city of Ottawa. More than 20 cm of snowfall was reported in southern Quebec by late Friday morning.

Ontario blizzard conditions - Dec. 23, 2022

Temperatures were set to plummet through the day Friday, with forecasters warning of the potential for flash freeze as wind chill values increased heading into the weekend.

"When it freezes that rapidly, roads become very hazardous — treacherous — so rapidly, it's extremely dangerous," said Peter Kimbell, a warning preparedness meteorologist with Environment Canada, in an interview with CBC News on Tuesday.

Additionally, powerful wind gusts accompanying the storm led to hundreds of thousands of power outages across Ontario and Quebec Friday, and over one million in the U.S.

Below is a collection of the some the impacts seen so far from this historic event:

Mark Robinson: Downed tree in Crystal Beach, Fort Erie. Winter storm, power outage, Ontario storm snow. Dec. 23, 2022

Uprooted tree as a result of high winds in Crystal Beach, Ont. (Mark Robinson/The Weather Network)

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