A winter storm carrying heavy winds has triggered thousands of power failures across Quebec, Ontario, the Maritimes and the northeastern United States.

Hydro-Quebec says 106,000 homes had lost power as of 7 a.m. local time, most of those homes between Trois-Rivieres and Quebec City, on the north shore of the St. Lawrence River.

Thousands are without power in Nova Scotia, as strong winds and heavy rain covered much of the Maritimes. As many as 14,000 Nova Scotia Power customers were without power Friday morning in such places as Yarmouth, Bridgewater and communities outside of Halifax.

However, that number was reduced to about 5,000 by mid-morning. The province is warning residents that flooding is a possibility.

In the eastern half of Ontario the storm is also bringing freezing rain, which has knocked out power to more than 4,700 Hydro One customers. The utility says about 4,000 homes in the Kingston and Ottawa valley areas may not have service back until later in the morning.

People in many parts of Ontario woke up to 15 centimetres of snow, with up to 25 centimetres predicted for Niagara.

The snow has led to hundreds of crashes along local highways and also forced the cancellations of a number of school bus services.

Ontario Provincial Police Sgt. Dave Woodford says there have been crashes on every major highway in the Greater Toronto Area. While none have been major, most of the minor ones were caused by drivers -- perhaps spoiled by a dry winter -- going too fast for the conditions.

Environment Canada has issued a special weather statement warning that the snow will be accompanied by 70-kilometre-per-hour wind gusts. Provincial police are warning commuters to drive cautiously because conditions will worsen when strong winds and low visibility combine.

The storm has also caused flight delays and cancellations at Toronto's Pearson International Airport, and travellers flying through that airport have been advised to call ahead.

U.S. power failures

The slow-moving winter storm has already knocked out power to thousands in the northeastern U.S., fanned a huge fire in coastal New Hampshire and disrupted air and road travel.

At least 650,000 homes and businesses in the U.S. are without power this morning. As utility companies attempt to fix downed lines, wind gusts of 80 kilometres an hour are hampering workers as the storm drops even more snow, rain and sleet.

Power failures were so bad in New Hampshire that even the state Emergency Operations Center was operating on a generator.

Officials are blaming the wind for helping the spread of an overnight hotel fire in the town of Hampton, New Hampshire that destroyed an entire block of businesses. No injuries were reported and no cause had been identified.

Snow-covered airport runways in New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire and elsewhere have led to thousands of flights being cancelled.

New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg declared a snow day for schools after more than 40 centimetres fell. It's the second snow day of the month for the metropolis, but only the fourth in six years.

This storm is just the latest for the northeast U.S., which has seen an unusual amount of snow this winter. Much of the region, particularly Philadelphia and southern New Jersey, only recently finished cleaning up from a pair of storms a few weeks ago.

Senior meteorologist Joe Bastardi of AccuWeather.com, said the eastern U.S. has been hit by a winter storm that normally would hit the Maritimes instead, and it's a pattern that will continue for the rest of winter.

"I think March is cold and stormy across the United States but I think in Canada it will be relatively tranquil, he told CTV News Channel. "(Canadians) will get out golfing earlier."

With reports from The Associated Press