Thousands of Canadians woke up in the dark on Christmas Day as power outages caused by ferocious winter conditions persisted across Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick.

A state of emergency continued in southern Ontario's Niagara Region as crews grappled with impassable roads and wildly blowing snow.

Phil Lambert said his community of Port Colborne, Ont., was a sea of abandoned cars Sunday. He and his daughter, Gracyn Burse, said they were heading into their second straight day without power, and they didn't anticipate it being restored until Monday.

"We borrowed a generator, but it's only capable of keeping a little heater running for the whole house," Burse said in an interview. "Our animals are freezing, though. We have two parrots, a budgie and a bearded dragon that needs heat."

The reptile and its feathered friends were cuddling up as best they could, she said.

Port Colborne is about 40 kilometres south of Niagara Falls, Ont., and the town declared a state of emergency on Saturday morning, echoing similar declarations in its neighbouring communities of Wainfleet and Fort Erie.

Burse said people in the area have pulled together to help one another through the extended blackouts and pick up those who were stuck in their immobilized cars.

"Everybody was out on snowmobiles rescuing people and providing food and shelter," she said. "People were out with their children, stranded."

Lambert said he has never seen winter conditions as bad as the storm that gripped the Niagara Region for the past two days. 

"There are some ditches that are a little deep, and people have driven right into them because they couldn't see last night, I guess," he said. "Cars are still sitting right in the middle of the road ... it's going to be a couple of days before they get anything going here."

As of mid-day Sunday, Hydro One said nearly 59,000 people in Ontario were without power. Canadian Niagara Power said on social media that its teams were out on the roads, doing their best to restore electricity to the region, but the company warned that conditions made it difficult to reach some areas.

Meanwhile, Niagara Regional Police Service urged residents to stay off the roads. Further west, officials said roads in Huron and Perth Counties were completely closed as heavy drifting snow made conditions dangerous.

Much of southern Ontario remained blanketed in Environment Canada weather warnings and special weather statements calling for snow squalls and local blowing snow.

Meanwhile, more than 131,000 customers in Quebec were without power.

Though most customers would see their lights come on by the end of Christmas Day, some would have to wait until at least Boxing Day for restoration, Hydro-Québec President Sophie Brochu told reporters Sunday.

Many customers waiting for power have been without it since Friday, she said. Crews were grappling with fallen trees that had knocked down power lines and poles, and that made restoration slower and more complex, she added.

The wintry conditions between Ontario and Quebec wreaked havoc on rail lines, with Via Rail announcing Saturday evening that a CN train derailment had cancelled all Christmas Day trains between Toronto and Ottawa and Toronto and Montreal.

The cancellations came shortly after ferocious winter weather grounded flights and stranded nine Via Rail trains between Ontario and Quebec, in some cases leaving passengers without food or water for more than 12 hours.

In New Brunswick, about 6,755 customers were in the dark after a massive outage that wiped out power for about 71,000 households. On Saturday, New Brunswick Power described the outage as one of the largest to befall the province in 25 years.

On the other side of the country in British Columbia, Environment Canada warned of ice buildup from ongoing freezing rain in the southern area spanning Whistler and the Fraser Valley to the Okanagan Valley. The agency issued a special weather statement for much of the interior, also for possible freezing rain.

The icy conditions were expected to let up on Boxing Day.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 25, 2022.

-- With files from Marisela Amador in Montreal