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Nearly 250,000 still without power as spring storm rolls through Quebec

A large tree branch blocks Bourbonnière Avenue, between Mont-Royal Avenue East and Rachel Street in Montreal's Rosemont–La Petite-Patrie borough.  (Simon-Marc Charron/Radio-Canada - image credit)
A large tree branch blocks Bourbonnière Avenue, between Mont-Royal Avenue East and Rachel Street in Montreal's Rosemont–La Petite-Patrie borough. (Simon-Marc Charron/Radio-Canada - image credit)

Hydro-Québec officials say their teams are working hard to restore power to more than 200,000 customers, as a spring storm bringing heavy, wet snow continues to sweep through Quebec.

Around 600,000 customers have been affected at one point or another since Wednesday evening, when strong winds started gusting and heavy snow began accumulating on tree branches, causing them to hit power lines, said Hydro-Québec spokesperson Cendrix Bouchard at an afternoon news conference.

As of Thursday afternoon, Hydro-Québec was logging 1,160 outages, affecting 220,815 customers across the province.

"We're doing our best in order to have them back on the grid as quickly as possible. It is likely though, that some people will have to wait until tomorrow in order to have power restored," said Bouchard.

The most affected regions are the Laurentians, with more than 70,000 customers affected, followed by Montreal and the Montérégie, with more than 26,000 and and 34,000 customers in the dark, respectively.

Thousands of people in the Outaouais, Laval, Lanaudière and the Eastern Townships are also without power.

Bouchard said 1,200 Hydro-Québec employees are on the ground working to get people back on the grid.

With the storm expected to continue into Thursday evening, he says it's possible to see more outages throughout the day, but "it doesn't mean that we're not at work."

Bouchard is reminding people to keep a safe distance, about 10 metres, from downed power lines and poles.

School closures

All schools under the English Montreal School Board, the Lester B. Pearson School Board and the Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board are closed due to a mixture of snow and power outages.

Around a dozen schools with Montreal's French school service centre, the Centre de services scolaire de Montréal (CSSDM) are also closed, as well as some under the Riverside School Board in Longueuil, due to power outages.

The storm is the result of a clash of two weather systems, one from Colorado and another from the East Coast.

Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) had issued a snowfall warning Wednesday morning for Montreal, saying total snowfall accumulations of 15 to 20 centimetres were expected until Thursday evening.

Montreal city spokesperson Phillipe Sabourin says snow removal operators have been working during the night and Thursday to clear the roads.

But as many motorists have already removed their snow tires, he is urging people to "take public transit or stay home."

Sabourin says the city will not launch a snow removal operation as the snow is expected to melt over the weekend when temperatures climb.

Other areas, including the Eastern Townships, Charlevoix and part of the Gaspé peninsula, are expected to get 20 to 30 centimetres of snow.

The weather agency says snow will be heavy and wet at times as temperatures remain near the freezing mark.

ECCC is warning rapidly accumulating snow could make travel difficult in some locations, adding visibility may be suddenly reduced at times.