A fierce winter storm is being blamed for the death of at least one person in Ontario Wednesday, as the massive storm system moved into parts of Quebec and the Maritimes.

The driver of a van died Wednesday morning in a collision with a petroleum truck west of Napanee, Ont. Police said the victim lost control of the vehicle on the slippery highway and slid over the median.

The storm is part of a massive system that started in the U.S. Midwest and swept into the northeastern states, where at least 12 deaths were blamed on the huge storm system.

Parts of southern Ontario were blanketed by a thick layer of snow, including as much as 40 centimetres in Hamilton and the surrounding area. Along with the snow, high winds and whiteouts were expected in the region.

Environment Canada said it could be a record-breaking snowfall for Hamilton and surrounding area.

Toronto escaped the worst of the storm, with 10 cm falling overnight and more snow expected on Wednesday. Some flights were cancelled at Pearson airport, the busiest in the country.

The Ontario Provincial Police are dealing with numerous accidents on the highways and were advising people not to travel if they could avoid it.

Some flights were also cancelled at the Ottawa airport. The nation's capital is expected to see as much as 20 cm by the end of the day.

Storm headed east

Montreal and the Eastern Townships, which saw snowfall begin early Wednesday, could have more than 40 centimetres by the end of the day. Flights have been cancelled at Montreal's Trudeau airport and many schools are closed for the day.

Maritimers will see a mix of snow, freezing ice pellets and rain over the next day, forecasters warn.

The storm has moved into northern New Brunswick, with as much as 30 cm of snow forecast for northern parts of the province. Other parts of the region will get lesser amounts, but can expect ice pellets, wind and rain overnight.

Parts of northern Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and southern Newfoundland and Labrador are also under storm watches.

U.S. hammered hard

In the U.S. Northeast, the blizzard has forced school closings and the cancellation of flights, and made travel hazardous.

Parts of New York state could receive as much as a metre of fresh snow Wednesday, while blizzard warnings have been issued for parts of New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Maine.

The storm system also hampered the travel plans of American firefighters trying to get to Winnipeg for the memorial of Capt. Tom Nichols and Capt. Harold Lessard, who died battling a house fire on Feb. 4.

Firefighters from New York were stalled at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, where almost half of Wednesday's flights have been cancelled.

The huge weather system's snow and ice had been blamed for three deaths in Nebraska; two each in Indiana, New Jersey and Delaware; and one each in Missouri and Ohio, and a tornado on the southern side of the huge weather system killed one person in Louisiana.