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‘Sprawling’ winter storm brings messy weather across GTA

Afternoon commuters in the GTA could be in for a slog Tuesday as a storm brings messy wintry weather to the region and wide swaths of Ontario.

Environment Canada has put all of southern Ontario under a weather advisory, warning of difficult travel conditions later in the day due to snow and, in some areas, potentially significant freezing rain or rainfall.

For Toronto and immediately surrounding areas, snow that arrived mid-morning is expected to turn to rain in the afternoon or evening as temperatures rise.

“For areas near Lake Ontario, if the snow changes to rain earlier, rainfall amounts greater than 30 millimetres may be possible. Rainfall warnings may be issued as the event draws nearer,” Environment Canada says.

That could mean pooling on roads and localized flooding, the federal weather agency cautions.

Ontario Provincial Police Sgt. Kerry Schmidt said that much rain can result in driving conditions just as dangerous as snow.

“It looks like it’s going to be real soggy and real messy. We’re looking at the potential for standing water — ponding — which can result in hydroplaning, which gives you the same issues as wet or slippery roads,” Schmidt said.

“So just be careful out there…. Give yourself lots of time to adjust to changing driving conditions.”

A worker tosses recycling into a recycling truck.
The City of Toronto is advising residents to take public transit, give themselves extra time to get around and travel with caution Tuesday. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Areas north of the city, like in Caledon and Newmarket, could see 10 to 15 centimetres of snow accumulate but are also at risk of freezing rain later in the day.

Environment Canada has issued a rainfall warning for Mississauga and Brampton, with amounts of 20 millimetres to 35 millimetres and wet roads expected starting Tuesday afternoon and ending in the evening or overnight.

A ‘sprawling’ Texas low system

David Phillips, senior climatologist with Environment and Climate Change Canada, said the storm is a “sprawling, expansive Texas low” that has been “sitting on Ontario’s doorstep” for several days. A Texas low is an area of low pressure that forms over the Gulf of Mexico before heading north.

Phillips said a system like this would typically stay south of the Great Lakes, but this one is “almost a spring-like storm that’s going to ride right through the heart of Ontario, coming from Michigan.”

It’s bringing with it warmer air and moisture from the Gulf of Mexico that is going to collide with the cold air sitting over the province right now, he said.

“So we’re going to see a mix of precipitation,” Phillips added. Temperatures are going to continue to rise throughout the day, and the storm could also bring blustery winds of up to 50 km/h, he said. 

TTC says it’s ready for winter weather

Some GTA school boards have cancelled bus service in particular coverage zones ahead of the pending storm.

Pearson airport said it does not anticipate any travel disruptions due to the blast of winter weather but cautioned travellers to leave plenty of time and check their flight status before heading out.

The TTC urged drivers to take public transit instead. In a statement, the TTC said it’s deploying extra employees and vehicles throughout the city that will spread salt, clear surfaces of snow. It will also run anti-icing trains to keep power rail and tracks clear of snow and ice, spray anti-icing through its transit network and provide frequent updates online, it said.

The transit service will be actively monitoring 56 bus stops in areas where heavy snow and freezing rain is known to impact bus service and advises customers to check if their stop is in service before traveling. Wheel-Trans service will continue, but service may be delayed. 

It advises all riders find real-time updates on its website and plan for extra travel time.

Central, eastern Ontario to be hit hardest

Meanwhile, some regions in the central and eastern Ontario have been put under a storm watch for today and into tomorrow morning.

The heaviest snow is predicted for central Ontario, including Sault Ste. Marie and Greater Sudbury, where Environment Canada is calling for between 15 and 30 centimetres starting this afternoon.

Ottawa and the surrounding area are also under a storm watch with Environment Canada predicting 10 to 20 centimetres of snow, possibly turning into freezing rain and ice pellets tonight.

Toronto to open warming centres

The City of Toronto is advising residents to take public transit, give themselves extra time to get around and travel with caution Tuesday as weather conditions are expected to worsen.

It is also opening four warming centres starting at 5 p.m. for walk-ins at:

  • 136 Spadina Road, south of Dupont Street.
  • 75 Elizabeth Street, behind city hall and west of Bay Street, south of Dundas Street West.
  • North York Warming Centre at 15 Olive Ave., east of Yonge Street and south of Finch Avenue East.
  • 885 Scarborough Golf Club Road, east of Markham Road and south of Ellesmere Road.

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