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Major winter storm closes schools in Quebec, more than 100,000 without power

A major winter storm is descending on Quebec just in time for the holidays, forcing widespread school closures, power outages and travel delays.

Hydro-Québec reports as of 9 a.m. Friday, more than 175,000 customers were in the dark across the province as the number of outages quickly climbed. The Outaouais, Laurentians and Quebec City regions are the hardest hit and the public utility is working to restore electricity as quickly as possible.

“Due to the weather forecast for today and tomorrow, the number of customers without power could continue to increase,” Hydro-Québec said on its website.

Environment Canada has issued a mix of warnings for much of the southern half of the province. Many areas are expected to receive a messy cocktail of heavy snow, rain and strong winds, while some areas could see freezing rain.

“If you absolutely have to hit the road, be sure to adapt your driving and be careful,” Transport Minister Geneviève Guilbault wrote on Twitter.

Some regions will get whacked by snow, including the Laurentians and Lanaudière which could see up to 70 centimetres by Christmas Eve day. Quebec City residents are bracing for “hazardous” conditions and the weather agency advises postponing non-essential travel.

Meanwhile, Montreal’s snowfall was followed by a flash freeze warning. Environment Canada says “ponding water, slush, and any falling precipitation will freeze as the temperature drops” throughout the day.

“Surfaces such as highways, roads, walkways and parking lots may become icy and slippery. There may be a significant impact on rush hour traffic in urban areas,” the warning reads.

Many school boards across the province have cancelled class for the day, including most Montreal-area school boards. It would have been the last day of school before the winter holidays.

When it comes to travelling, officials are asking those who get behind the wheel or head out in the storm to exercise caution. In Montreal, the mayor said the city had nearly finished snow-removal operations from last week’s storm, but was prepared for another round of winter weather.

“This storm could make travel difficult. Be careful,” Valérie Plante wrote.

Those hopping on a plane should check their flight’s status before heading to Montreal or Quebec City airports. Many departures and arrivals are delayed.