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See why crews say it could take up to three days before power is fully restored across southern Ontario

Worst ice storm in years coats southern Ontario, cuts power to thousands

Digital writers

Sunday, December 22, 2013, 4:40 PM -

STORM WATCH: Tune into The Weather Network on TV for continued updates on this storm.

About 350,000 customers across southern Ontario were without electricity after a massive weather system coated the landscape in ice, including about 250,000 in the Greater Toronto Area, where it could take up to three days to get everyone reconnected.

In the meantime, Toronto Hydro has asked those who have electricity service to "share the power" and consider inviting neighbours inside.

The City of Toronto has also opened a number of warming stations, which can be found at www.toronto.ca.

"All available resources have been deployed and crews are working as quickly as possible to restore power," said Toronto Hydro in a statement on Sunday.

"Some of the crews I've spoken to said this is as bad [as the 1998 Ice Storm],'' Blair Peberdy, vice-president of Toronto Hydro, told the Canadian Press Sunday. "These storms tend to wreak havoc and we have to go street by street with chainsaws."

Hydro Quebec was reporting 45,000 customers without power as of noon, while Hydro One was reporting more than 120,000 people in the dark.

Even a centimetre of ice coating a heavily-laden tree branch can cause it to snap and fall on either a vehicle or a power line. Weather Network viewers and numerous early-risers on Twitter were reporting power outages, and even witnessing sparking substations.

Freezing rain warnings covered much of the south of the province, including the southwest, Niagara, Hamilton, Greater Toronto Area and Kingston. 

The National Capital Region, in the meantime, was initially not in the warned areas, but Environment Canada expanded the freezing rain warning to include Ottawa mid-morning Sunday. 

Here's what Ottawa bureau reporter Arda Ocal had to say about the kind of conditions awaiting drivers in the National Capital Region around noon:

That's on top of around 31 cm of snow that had fallen on the city by 8 a.m.

Police and emergency services were warning people to stay off the roads, and be cautious if travel is necessary.

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The Canadian Press reported Sunday morning that weather was believed to have been a factor in three fatal collisions in Quebec on Saturday, and another in Ontario.

With the roads even worse Sunday, the TTC reported temporary service shut downs on some streetcar routes, while railway service was also delayed or temporarily shut down.

Numerous flight cancellations were reported at airports in Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal.

Rachel Schoulten was at Pearson Airport earlier Sunday:

As for total accumulations, the Kingston area was by far the worst hit, seeing more than 50 hours of freezing rain since Friday as of noon Sunday. Other communities saw almost as much, and Toronto's Pearson Airport reported more than 40 hours.

By the time Sunday comes to an end, parts of the Golden Horseshoe and southwestern Ontario could see freezing rain totals of up to 40 mm. In Kingston, eastern Ontario and southern Quebec, that number could be as much as 60 mm.

As the day wears on, the rain should switch over to non-freezing rain in the southern GTA, Golden Horseshoe and Niagara regions, but freezing rain will still be a risk in a huge slice of the province.

Further north, up to 20 cm of snow could fall on areas east of Georgian Bay.

The storm's worst strength is en route to Atlantic Canada.

With files from the Canadian Press.

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