Runners brave a winter storm in Halifax on Sunday, Dec.15, 2013. The region is expecting high winds and up to 30 centimetres of snow. Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press
Canadians are bracing for a blast of winter weather as a major storm is expected to hit Quebec, Ontario and Atlantic Canada in the midst of one of the busiest shopping and travelling weekends of the year.
Environment Canada is warning of the potential of freezing rain across southern and eastern Ontario beginning late this afternoon and continuing into Sunday morning.
Freezing rain began falling overnight in Quebec and police say difficult road conditions may have played a role in three deaths in three separate highway accidents.
"What we did see earlier today was the freezing rain that was really pushing through for southern Ontario, areas of Toronto and just north of the city already picking up on that ice," CBC meteorologist Janine Baijnath said Saturday morning.
"We're looking at ice accumulation already building along the tree branches and on the roads, so very slick conditions out there."
A significant frontal boundary from Sarnia to near Hamilton and eastwards across Lake Ontario is expected to remain fairly stationary for another day.
Some areas north of the front are expected to get up to 20 millimetres of freezing rain, while others could get snow, ice pellets or rain.
Forecasters say travellers should be prepared for dangerous winter conditions and possible power outages.
"If you're not used to driving in very icy conditions, yes it's going to be a very slippery one," Baijnath said.
"You're going to want to take more caution when you're on the road, leave a lot of space between you and the car ahead of you."
In southern Quebec, forecasters say as much as 30 centimetres of snow mixed with ice pellets is expected to hit by Sunday morning.
“Northeasterly winds will intensify beginning tonight and greatly reduce visibilities in blowing snow, mostly near the St. Lawrence,” said Environment Canada.
“Two low pressure systems will, one after the other, give snow, ice pellets and freezing rain over southern and central Quebec today and Sunday … Significant amounts of freezing precipitation are expected and road conditions will be hazardous.”
Forecasters say the Montreal area could also see light episodes of freezing rain.
Snow and ice pellets will become heavier as the second, more intense, system approaches starting this evening. Forecasters say those conditions will spread toward eastern Quebec during the day Sunday.
People in affected areas should consider delaying, or even cancelling, their travel plans as “road conditions could deteriorate rapidly,” according to Environment Canada.
The storm has already led to dozens of delays at Montreal's Pierre Elliott Trudeau airport on one of the busiest travel weekends of the year. There area also cancellations and delays at Pearson Airport in Toronto.
Meanwhile, the East Coast is bracing for freezing rain and ice pellets as Environment Canada issued a special weather statement for Nova Scotia, P.E.I. and New Brunswick yesterday, warning of a potential winter storm.
A trough of low pressure will move over the region today.
As much as 25 centimetres of snow is expected to fall in some areas by Sunday.
There is potential for freezing rain, ice pellets and blowing snow tomorrow.
“Periods of freezing rain are expected over southern New Brunswick ahead of the trough today. As the trough shifts southward overnight, freezing rain and/or ice pellets will continue to affect much of southern New Brunswick, persisting until late Sunday evening,” said Environment Canada.
“Currently, it looks like the extreme southwest of the province will be the worst hit by the freezing rain. There are indications that these regions could see 12-plus hours and up to 30 millimetres of freezing rain.”
The same weather system is expected to lie over Prince Edward Island by this afternoon, drifting towards southwestern Nova Scotia by Sunday morning.