The latest on the winter storm heading for Toronto and the GTA ahead of major holiday travel days

Brace yourself for a “major” winter storm to hit in the days leading into the holiday weekend, Environment Canada is warning. 

The current forecast — which includes this special weather statement — features the potential for the following:

  • Rain
  • A potential flash freeze
  • Strong winds with gusts up to 90 km/h
  • Blizzard conditions

The federal weather agency is already urging people to reconsider their holiday travel plans.

Even if you stay in place, be ready for the possibility of “extensive” utility outages. 

When will the storm hit?

The storm is expected to arrive in southwestern Ontario late Thursday, first in the form of rain or snow. 

Torontonians may be hoping this will be another predicted snow storm that turns out to be a rainy day — and Environment Canada does note: “precipitation types and amounts remain uncertain at this time.” 

But that may prove to be wishful thinking.

Why? Temperatures are predicted to plummet overnight Friday, with areas soaked in rain becoming vulnerable to flash freezes.

Highways, roads, walkways, and parking lots will all become icy and hazardous, Environment Canada warns. Conditions will be worse on overpasses and bridges, and black ice is also a risk. 

Drivers will want to consider alternate routes in the case of road closures. 

The weather looks set to get worse as Friday continues, with strong winds and potential blizzard conditions by the evening and into the weekend.

How tough will travel be?

Steven Flisfeder, a meteorologist with Environment Canada, told CBC Toronto the conditions will make for difficult driving. If possible, try traveling ahead of the worst days of the storm on Friday and Saturday for any holiday plans.

If you can, he said, try to postpone any gatherings until Sunday. 

Until then, “take this time ahead of the storm to prepare for the conditions that will be coming,” Flisfeder said.

“It’s always best to be prepared so that you don’t have to scramble when the storm actually approaches.”

Torontonians dig out on Jan. 18, 2022, the day after a major snowfall event in Southern Ontario that saw 55 centimetres of snow in 15 hours. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Toronto Pearson Airport, Canada’s largest, advised travelers Wednesday that flights could be affected by the storm as well.

“It’s very likely that if you have flights they’re going to be at the very least delayed,” said Flisfeder. 

Is this storm a sure thing?

Flisfeder said Environment Canada is confident this storm will be “much more intense” — regardless of how much snow and rain stay on the ground — than the last storm system that rolled through was.

Oh, and bundle up.

Temperatures on Friday night and into the weekend could be the coldest that Toronto has seen so far this winter, he said.

What’s causing this storm?

Flisfeder says this week’s storm is caused by moisture coming up from the southern United States that’s interacting with a strong cold air mass coming from the Arctic.

“And when those meet up, we get a rapid intensification of the low pressure system. And all that combined is what makes this such an intense storm.”

Ontario is not the only one expected to take a hit. British Columbia is already dealing with extreme cold warnings and buckets of snow that have delayed international flights for the next few days.

How should you prepare?

Residents are urged to make an emergency plan and prepare a kit with drinking water, food, medicine, first aid supplies and a flashlight, the agency says.

Environment Canada says residents should continue to check local forecasts throughout the course of the multi-day storm.

Flisfeder says by Sunday, most areas should start to see an ease in the intensity of snowfall, save for northern parts of the GTA and areas near Lake Huron and Georgian Bay. Those areas will still likely be experiencing heavy falling snow and gusting winds, keeping travel conditions difficult. 

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