Western Canada ice storms cause power outages during bitter cold spell

FILE PHOTO: People warm themselves next to the Centennial Flame during frigid weather on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, December 29, 2017. REUTERS/Patrick Doyle

TORONTO (Reuters) - Some 36,000 homes and businesses in British Columbia lost power due to ice storms in western Canada on Saturday, and workers rushed to restore service before nightfall as forecasters predicted extremely cold temperatures across the nation.

Electric utility BC Hydro warned on Twitter that conditions remained hazardous in the affected area of southwestern British Columbia, which is known as Fraser Valley, due to downed power lines.

Canada is suffering from the same blast of Arctic air that sent much of the U.S. Northeast and Midwest into a record-breaking deep freeze. The cold spell, which began before Christmas, has prompted the Canadian government to issue weather alerts for much of the nation, from British Columbia in the west to Quebec in the east.

The government warned of extreme cold for much of Canada, including the cities of Toronto, Montreal, Calgary and Ottawa. Such alerts indicate that forecasters expect temperatures to dip below -30 Celsius (-22 Fahrenheit) for at least two hours.

The frigid forecasts prompted authorities to scale back plans for Sunday New Year’s Eve celebrations in some cities, including Toronto.

Ottawa, the nation’s capital, moved an outdoor youth hockey tournament indoors and canceled a concert on Parliament Hill to mark the end of a yearlong celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday.

The popular tourist destination of Niagara Falls, which is on the U.S. border, planned to go ahead with an outdoor New Year’s Eve concert, but organizers arranged to provide buses where merrymakers could warm up, broadcaster CBC reported on Saturday.

Reporting by Jim Finkle; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn