Central and eastern Canada dig out after record storm

Mon Dec 17, 2007 2:47pm EST
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Much of eastern and central Canada was digging out on Monday after a massive storm dumped up to 50 cm (20 inches) of snow in places, shocking Canadians who had become accustomed to milder winters.

The storm caused hundreds of traffic accidents and virtually shut down major airports. One woman died after being hit by a snow plow as she stood beside her family van. Her two young daughters inside the van were unharmed.

The storm swept up from the United States late on Saturday and unloaded 26 cm of snow on Toronto -- with the occasional clap of thunder thrown in for good measure -- before moving on to the rest of Ontario and then east to Quebec.

"And winter hasn't even started yet!" said the main front page head line of Montreal's La Presse daily. Winter officially starts this Saturday.

Ottawa received 32 cm of snow on Sunday, a one-day record for December. Last year at this time, the capital was green, with temperatures well above freezing.

The last two winters have been among the mildest on record. Late last month, Environment Canada said this winter was likely to be much harsher, a warning few seemed to take seriously.

"We seem to be out of practice. It's amazing what a couple of warm winters will do," said David Phillips, a climatologist at Environment Canada who said the storm was a dress rehearsal of what this winter would be like.

"We have that reputation we like to stroke, the idea that we are the winter weather people. And yet you would sense out there already now that Canadians are weather-weary and yet winter hasn't even started yet," he told Reuters.   Continued...

<p>People walk in the street during a snow storm of Quebec City December 16, 2007. REUTERS/Mathieu Belanger</p>