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Weather packs a punch 'from coast to coast to coast'

The Canadian Press

The Great White North is living up to its name.

Winter debuted Sunday with boisterous displays of heavy snow, powerful winds and numbing cold across the country. Forecasters are predicting Christmas will look much the same.

“I would dare say if you're in a satellite looking down on Canada, it would be white from coast to coast to coast and it would be frozen,” said David Phillips, senior climatologist with Environment Canada.

“There's no area that can say that winter hasn't really arrived.”

Red warning labels stretched right across the government agency's weather map, showing snowfall warnings and arctic outflow in B.C. and wind chill warnings for the Prairies and northern Ontario.

There was more blustering snow through southern Ontario, and a series of winter storm warnings for Quebec and the Maritimes.

“Whatever we're under — this winter wave, this pre-winter hit — is not going to go away,” Mr. Phillips said.

“We're going to see the vestiges of this cold and snow perhaps maybe until the end of the year.”

In normally mild British Columbia, icy temperatures claimed the life of a woman in Abbotsford on Saturday. Her frozen body was found outside her home by a neighbour.

In Vancouver, snow began falling Saturday night and continued into Sunday, with up to 20 centimetres expected in some areas by day's end.

The frigid weather plummeted further throughout the Prairies, where daytime temperatures have struggled to even reach the -20s C and at night are falling into the -30s C, said meteorologist Geoff Coulson.

Following heavy snowfall Sunday in southern Ontario, gusty winds hurled snow through the air, sometimes reducing visibility to whiteout conditions.

Provincial police reported more than 100 minor crashes on Toronto area highways between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. The Canadian Automobile Association received 3,000 calls for emergency roadside assistance, down from 5,800 on Saturday and 5,600 during the first wintry wallop on Friday.

After five days and three storms — dubbed “snowmaggedon” by Environment Canada — some 30 to 50 cm will have accumulated across Ontario, Phillips said.

“It's the third one that brings you down, you're running out of places to put the snow, you're just going on adrenaline and people are fed up,” he said.

“No snowman-making weather with this kind of snow.”

Northern Ontario remains in the cold snap shared by the Prairies, while eastern Ontario was to finally get the blast of white the region has avoided over the past several days.

The skies were also expected to drop upwards of 25 cm of white stuff on Montreal when it's all through.

About 40 flights were cancelled and another 60 delayed at Montreal's Trudeau Airport and passenger trains were experiencing delays of 30 to 60 minutes. Dozens more flights couldn't lift off from Toronto's Pearson International Airport early in the day, though by afternoon runways were relatively clear. Still more flights were cancelled at Vancouver's international airport.

Roads conditions deteriorated throughout the day across the western part of Quebec, with the worst experienced in the Laurentians and Lanaudiere regions.

A chain-reaction crash Sunday afternoon on Quebec's Highway 40, near the town of L'Assomption, involved at least 30 vehicles. Police said several people suffered minor injuries.

A similar pile-up that occurred Saturday, north of Toronto, involved 50 cars.

The system rolling through parts of Ontario and Quebec Sunday night was expected to track east to the Maritimes, when it was expected to merge with a storm moving north from the eastern United States.

Along with dumps ranging from 10 cm to 25 cm from New Brunswick to Newfoundland, winds upwards of 100 km/h were in the forecast for some parts.

Those dreaming of a white Christmas will get their wish — mostly.

While Yuletide will likely be a rare postcard perfect in Vancouver, with snow both in the air and on the ground, parts of Ontario and the Maritimes may get an influx of slightly milder temperatures and even rain.

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