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Weather alerts end after freezing rain coats Ottawa in a layer of ice

Ottawa was coated in a layer of ice Wednesday after a "significant" freezing rainstorm that lasted for hours.

Hydro Ottawa and Hydro One are reporting multiple power outages across eastern Ontario, while the storm forced the cancellation of school buses and grounded some flights at the Ottawa International Airport.  There have also been numerous downed tree branches due to the weight of the ice, including at least one that injured someone.

A freezing rain warning for Ottawa ended just before 8:30 p.m. A rainfall warning, calling for 30 to 50 mm of rain through the evening, also ended around 8:30 p.m. Weather warnings remained in effect in western Quebec.

Ice drips from light fixtures above a restaurant's patio as freezing rain falls in Ottawa, on Wednesday, April 5, 2023. (Justin Tang/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Freezing rain and ice pellets began falling at approximately 9 a.m. By 11 a.m., roads and sidewalks had a layer of ice on it. A thunderstorm rolled through Ottawa just before 1 p.m. As of 6 p.m., 35 mm of liquid precipitation was recorded at the Ottawa Airport, according to Environment Canada, eclipsing the precipitation record for April 5 of 34.4 mm, set at the airport in 1984.

Freezing rain turned to rain around 6 p.m. after the temperature rose to 0 C.

"We're seeing the worst of the winter weather and that is the freezing rain," Environment Canada senior meteorologist David Phillips tells CTV News Ottawa.

"We think, in total, the amounts might be 10 to 15 mm of ice accretion. This would be the ice pellets plus the freezing rain, all mixed together to be a gluey mess that is some of the hardest ice that winter can produce."

"A miserable, miserable weather day in the Ottawa area," Phillips says. "Overall, we could see, clearly, a very wet day. The only thing we can't say for sure is how much of that is going to be the freezing stuff and how much is going to be the liquid stuff."

Phillips says a Colorado low moving northward, is bumping into cold air in the northern part of Ontario, bringing the ice pellets and freezing rain to Ottawa.

"This one seems like a prolonged bout of it," Phillips said about the weather.

All school buses in Ottawa and eastern Ontario were cancelled for the day, while the Western Quebec School Board says all schools were closed in the Outaouais region due to the storm.

Several flights have been cancelled at the Ottawa International Airport. Travellers are advised to check their flight status before heading to the airport.

Phillips predicts this will be "winter's last hurrah" for Ottawa and eastern Ontario.

"We see these temperatures come on the weekend of 14, 17 degrees for a high. When you start beating winter up it doesn't kind of return," Phillips says. "My sense is it's really going to go out in a big bang, but strong winds, a threat of freezing rain, ice pellets."

Hydro Outages

Hydro Ottawa is reporting "multiple power outages" across the city.

The utility said in an update on its website, time-stamped at 6:30 p.m., "We are currently experiencing several outages affecting approximately 64,000 customers as a result of the freezing rain conditions. However the situation continues to fluctuate as a result of bad road conditions, ice build up and downed trees and power lines. Hydro Ottawa crews are responding."

Hundreds of thousands of customers in Quebec and eastern Ontario are also without power. Hydro One and Hydro Quebec reported numerous outages throughout the day and it's unknown when power will be fully restored.

Hydro Ottawa

Hydro Ottawa says it was prepared for power outages and damage to the hydro infrastructure .

"We've spent most of the day preparing for the worst-case conditions, although we're feeling pretty confident right now that we're not going to run into too many problems," Joseph Muglia, director of systems operations with Hydro Ottawa, told Newstalk 580 CFRA on Tuesday. "At this point, we've got all of our personnel ready to go; we're just waiting on the weather now."

Speaking to CFRA Wednesday afternoon, Muglia said tree damage was a significant source of outages.

"What been happening is now we're dealing with the impact of trees, for the most part. In some cases, you'll have a single tree taking out 10,000 or 11,000 customers," he said. "We'll restore one thing and right behind us is another tree coming down. Some of those bigger, older trees, that's a lot of ice and it's very heavy and it comes down on our infrastructure; there's not much we can do but move the stuff, restore the power and move onto the next."

He said Hydro Ottawa will have its full complement of staff working through the night and into the morning to restore power to anyone affected. He anticiated many customers could have power restored Wednesday night.

"If we can deal with about six or seven of the larger outages around the city right now, we'll have a significant number of those customers restor]ed."

More than 139,000 customers who had lost power throughout the day had already been reconnected, he said. 

OC Transpo

OC Transpo warned commuters that bus and Para Transpo service might be delayed due to the freezing rain and slippery road conditions.

"Plan your trip and be cautious when boarding, exiting, and at station platforms."

The Confederation Line LRT was offline all day, with no clear timeline for a return to service.

Gatineau Park

All trails and parking lots were closed in Gatineau Park due to the freezing rain in the forecast.

"Trails may be slippery and fallen tree branches could be hazardous for the public," the National Capital Commission aid.

"Our crews will assess, secure and clear NCC’s sites as soon as possible. This may take some time. Please remain patient and vigilant, and do not try to clear the sites yourselves."

City of Ottawa recreation centres

Due to the significant weather event and hazardous travelling conditions, the city of Ottawa closed its recreation and cultural facilities effective at 4 p.m. Wednesday. Facilities will reopen for regular business hours Thursday.

Facilities with after school programs will remain open to receive participants. Parents will be contacted to arrange pickup.

Algonquin College

Algonquin College said all classes at its Pembroke campus were cancelled Wednesday due to the freezing rain. The campus remains open.

The college has cancelled all in-person classes at the Ottawa and Perth campuses Wednesday afternoon and evening.


The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board said all community events at its schools were cancelled Wednesday.


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