A large tree branch blocking Bourbonnière Avenue, between Mont-Royal Avenue East and Rachel Street in Montreal's Rosemont–La Petite-Patrie borough.
© Simon-Marc Charron/Radio-CanadaA large tree branch blocking Bourbonnière Avenue, between Mont-Royal Avenue East and Rachel Street in Montreal's Rosemont–La Petite-Patrie borough.
A spring storm bringing heavy, wet snow swept through Quebec overnight, knocking out the lights for nearly 300,000 Hydro-Québec customers and shuttering schools in multiple areas.

All schools under the English Montreal School Board, the Lester B. Pearson School Board and the Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board are closed due to a mixture of snow and power outages.

Around a dozen schools with Montreal's French school service centre, the Centre de services scolaire de Montréal (CSSDM) are also closed, as well as some under the Riverside School Board in Longueuil, due to power outages.

As of Thursday morning, Hydro-Québec was logging 971 outages, affecting 281,116 customers across the province.

The most affected regions include Montreal, with more than 73,000 customers affected, followed by the Laurentians and the Montérégie, with more than 86,000 and and 41,000 customers in the dark, respectively.

Tens of thousands of people in the Outaouais, Laval and Lanaudière are also without power.

Many of the outages are caused by heavy snow accumulating on trees combined with northeast winds reaching up to 70 km/h in Montreal that have caused some large branches to sag or snap and come into contact with power lines.

Hydro-Québec spokesperson Cendrix Bouchard says about 1,000 employees are on the ground Thursday morning working to restore power as soon as possible.

He couldn't provide a timeline for when everyone would have electricity back, but he said the good news is that many of the outages are affecting a large number of customers.

"So that means every action that we're going to be taking today is going to have a [big] effect," said Bouchard.

Slippery rush hour

The storm is the result of a clash of two weather systems, one from Colorado and another from the East Coast.

Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) had issued a snowfall warning Wednesday morning for Montreal, saying total snowfall accumulations of 15 to 20 centimetres are expected until Thursday evening.

Meteorologist Michèle Fleury says the roads during rush hour will be especially slick.

"There's already a few centimetres of snow on the ground and the roads are getting slippery, so we need to be careful for rush hour this morning as the snow will continue to accumulate all through the day but especially before noon," she said.

Montreal city spokesperson Phillipe Sabourin says snow removal operators have been working during the night and Thursday morning to clear the roads.

But as many motorists have already removed their snow tires, he is urging people to "take public transit or stay home."

Sabourin says the city will not launch a snow removal operation as the snow is expected to melt over the weekend when temperatures climb.

Fleury says other areas, including the Eastern Townships, Charlevoix and part of Gaspésie, are expected to get between 20 to 30 centimetres of snow.

The weather agency says snow will be heavy and wet at times as temperatures remain near the freezing mark.

The ECCC is warning rapidly accumulating snow could make travel difficult in some locations, adding visibility may be suddenly reduced at times.

with files from CBC's Lauren McCallum and Daybreak