Today's weather forecast: Winter ... and then some

TORONTO – The first Monday of 2014 brings more dangerous wind chill readings to the Prairies while other parts of Canada face a miserable mix of freezing rain, high winds and hazardous driving conditions.

Dangerous wind chills of -50 C blanketed much of Saskatchewan and Manitoba on Sunday, with similar readings expected to prevail this morning.

However, Environment Canada said temperatures in both provinces were expected to moderate by the afternoon, followed by “significant warming” later in the week.

In Newfoundland, the battle against cold and darkness continued Sunday night when a generating station outside St. John’s unexpectedly shut down, leaving about 90,000 customers without power. That number was reduced to about 30,000 by morning.

The blackout came as utility crews were making steady progress restoring power following a blizzard Friday night and a hydro station fire on Saturday. Premier Kathy Dunderdale was appealing to Newfoundlanders to conserve energy to allow customers to be reconnected to the grid.

In the meantime, the province’s education minister, Clyde Jackman, said Sunday that all schools would be closed until Wednesday across Newfoundland. The campuses of Memorial University and College of the North Atlantic on the island portion of the province will also remain closed until Wednesday.

In Montreal, operations at Trudeau Airport were temporarily suspended during the night due to poor weather but resumed a few hours later. The airport’s website, however, showed numerous delays and cancellations.

Environment Canada had forecast five to 20 millimetres of freezing rain in southern and central Quebec through the night, with winds of more than 90 kilometres per hour.

Flights are also affected by weather at the Ottawa International Airport and the Jean-Lesage International Airport in Quebec City. Pearson International Airport in Toronto was also reporting multiple delays and cancellations.

All affected airports were advising travellers to check with their airline first before heading to the airport.

In Nova Scotia, heavy rain and wind were forecast across the Atlantic coast region and most of Cape Breton, with around 25 millimetres expected through Monday night.

Other areas of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island were under a freezing rain warning ahead of a welcome rush of “very mild air” expected in the afternoon.

However, punishing wind gusts of up to 130 kilometres an hour were forecast for Nova Scotia’s Inverness County and parts of Cape Breton.

In New Brunswick, freezing rain was likely to persist this morning in the southeast and along the Lower Saint John River Valley while freezing rain in the south was expected to change to rain by the morning.

Overnight snowfall of up to 10 centimetres, followed by ice pellets and freezing rain, was expected in central and northern regions of the province. After the freezing rain, up to 35 millimetres of rain was in the forecast, especially along the Fundy coast.

In Toronto, Environment Canada issued both a flash freeze and a wind chill warning early Monday as residents continue to recover from a massive holiday period ice storm that left 300,000 hydro customers in the dark.

The agency said as a period of snow, freezing rain and rain moves away from the city, it will drag a sharp Arctic cold front behind it, causing wet streets and sidewalks to freeze over. Motorists and pedestrians were urged to avoid travel because the flash freeze may have a significant impact on the morning commute.

Many school boards across southern Ontario cancelled buses or closed schools on the first day back after the Christmas break, although most boards in the Greater Toronto Area said it would be business as usual.

Environment Canada also warned that the wind chill in the Toronto area would range from -35 C to -40 C on Monday night into Tuesday morning.

The mix of snow and freezing rain on Sunday night created hazardous driving conditions, with provincial police reporting “hundreds of collisions.”

Northwestern Ontario, meanwhile, was under a wind chill warning, where icy winds were making it feel as cold as -45 C.