Weather warnings are in effect for Ottawa and all of eastern Ontario and people are being urged to stay home as a major winter storm wallops the region during one of the year’s busiest travel times.
Environment Canada issued a winter storm warning for Ottawa Thursday , calling for up to 15 centimetres of heavy snow by Friday morning, a risk of freezing rain, winds of up to 90 kilometres per hour and a flash freeze producing icy and slippery surfaces.
“It’s going to be a real messy situation … a real beast of a storm,” Environment Canada senior climatologist David Phillips told CTV News at Noon on Thursday.
The weather agency is urging people to avoid travel if possible. The city of Ottawa has declared a significant weather event and is urging people to stay home on Friday “unless it is absolutely necessary.”
The storm began in downtown Ottawa with a wintry mix of precipitation Thursday evening, with some snow as well as ice pellets and freezing rain in some areas.
The weather agency is calling for up to 15 centimetres of snow by Friday morning, then changing to rain. There will be a risk of freezing rain during that transition. A flash freeze is expected Friday afternoon, with strong winds developing then and continuing into Saturday.
Envrionment Canada says an additional five to 10 centimetres of snow is expected Friday afternoon into Saturday. It’s also calling for wind chill values approaching -20 into the weekend.
“We could have eight hours of rain on top of that snow, and then a flash freeze,” Phillips said. “For me, the winds are crucial. … You get that ice, and it’s camouflaged by some more falling snow … but the winds will be the common denominator throughout this.”
Earlier Thursday, the Environment Canada issued rainfall warnings for much of the Seaway, including Belleville, Kingston and Brockville, on Thursday morning. About 20 to 30 millimetres of rain and melting snow is expected by noon on Friday.
Winter storm warnings have also been issued for areas west and southwest of Ottawa, including Peterborough, Smiths Falls, Sharbot Lake, Renfrew and Pembroke.
The blizzard is expected to be “crippling” in parts of southwestern Ontario, bringing wind gusts up to 120 kilometres per hour and up to 30 centimetres of snow.
The storm, a so-called ‘weather bomb,’ is the result of cold Arctic air colliding with warm air coming up from the Gulf of Mexico.
“It’s a bomb because the pressure drops 24 millibars in 24 hours,”Phillips said. “That means the storm explodes. It just absolutely is so energized and it just develops into a monster within a very short period of time.”
Cancellations and closures
The city of Ottawa is closing all recreational and cultural facilities on Friday. Client services centres and other counter services will also be closed, along with municipal day care centres. Visit this page for more information on city services.
The Ottawa Catholic School Board and Ottawa-Carleton District School Board have both cancelled schools for Friday.
All schools, virtual classes, programs and offices will be closed on Friday, both board said early Thursday afternoon.
“Students and staff should remain home. Transportation will be cancelled as well,” the OCSB said in a statement.
The Upper Canada District School Board is also closing all schools and cancelling school transporation on Friday.
Le Conseil des écoles catholiques du Centre-Est, Ottawa’s French Catholic School Board, has cancelled all schools on Friday. The exceptions are the Académie d’apprentissage virtuel (AAV) et the Centre d’enseignement personnalisé virtuel (CEPV), which will continue as virtual learning.
The CEPEO, Ottawa’s French public board, is also closing all schools on Friday.
The Ottawa Senators game against the Detroit Red Wings scheduled for Friday night has been postponed.
The Ottawa Christmas Market and 613flea are also cancelled on Friday due to the storm.
All branches of the Ottawa Public Library are closing on Friday due to the storm. All OPL Bookmobile stops will also be cancelled.
Due dates for regular library itmes are extended until Dec. 27, and expiry dates for hold pickups will be extended until Jan. 2. Books drops remain open. Branches are expected to reopen Saturday.
The Museum of Nature is closing on Friday due to the storm. Reserved ticketholders will receive an automatic refund.
City declares ‘significant weather event’
The city of Ottawa has declared a significant weather event and instituted a winter parking ban from 10 a.m. Friday morning until 7 a.m. Saturday.
City crews will be out maintaining the city’s roads, sidewalks and cycling paths, but say it might take longer than usual to clear them.
Officials are also urging people to avoid travel and complete all errands before the storm starts Thursday evening.
“Travel during this time should be avoided and we are advising everyone to complete their errands before the event is scheduled to begin later this evening,” the city said in a news release. “Anyone who is required to travel during this event is asked to plan ahead and to give themselves extra travel time.”
OC Transpo said on Twitter that trains on the Confederation Line will be running overnight Thursday to clear snow and help prevent ice buildup. Teams will also be out pre-salting platforms and pathways.
Bryden Denyes, the city’s area manager of road services, told CTV News that crews are clearing catch basins to prevent any drainage issues ahead of the expected rain.
Crews have also been scraping down the snow pack on residential streets in anticipation of the many different types of precipitation the storm could bring.
“We definitely have to be very agile in how we treat this storm,” he said. “Whether we’re plowing snow, working on drainage or plowing ice, we’re going to apply the appropriate materials.”
Hydro Ottawa preparing for possible outages
Hydro Ottawa says its crews are preparing to respond to power outages from the storm, and is encouraging customers to be prepared for possible extended outages.
“Customers are encouraged to be prepared in case of extended power outages,” Hydro Ottawa said in a note to customers on Wednesday. “Please ensure that electronics, such as cell phones and laptops, are fully charged ahead of the storm.”
The utility updates its outage map every 15 minutes, and will also be posting updates to social media.
– with files from Tyler Fleming, CTV News Ottawa
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