Toronto crews on standby ahead of Christmas winter storm

Toronto is preparing to tackle a messy winter storm that’s set to hit most of southern Ontario on Friday and into the Christmas holiday weekend.

City crews are currently on standby and salting and plowing machines are preparing to head near their routes on Thursday in anticipation of the nasty weather set to begin this evening.

“The weather is going to change extremely quickly, there’s going to be high winds so we have to try to get on top of it as quickly as we can,” Vincent Sferrazza, Director of Operations and Maintenance said at a news conference Thursday morning.

“We’re expecting the rain to turn over into freezing rain very quickly and we’re going to have to salt as quickly as we can,” he added.

Environment Canada has issued a winter storm watch for Toronto and most of southern Ontario with rain or snow expected to begin late this afternoon or early this evening before transitioning to rain for many areas tonight.

The national weather agency said “damaging winds” along with blowing snow are set to develop Friday morning and continue into Saturday. Temperatures are also expected to plummet on Friday morning resulting in a potential flash freeze.

“Extensive blowing snow will develop Friday morning. Very cold wind chills are expected to develop on Friday and persist into the weekend,” Environment Canada said on its website.

Wind gusts of 90 to 100 km/h are expected tomorrow creating “widespread blowing snow which will significantly reduce visibility.”

Snowfall amounts of five to 15 cm are expected by Friday night.

As a first defence, Sferrazza said crews are set to start salting Friday morning or earlier if they need to.

FILE- A line of snow plows clears the Gardiner Expressway in Toronto on Tuesday, Feb.12, 2019 after a winter storm hit the region. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

“We have maintenance patrollers working overnight, literally patrolling all the roads, taking weather conditions, and they’ll be the ones that also help us in terms of if we have to go out earlier,” he said.

Sferrazza added that he expects crews will have to complete multiple rounds of salting and plowing, depending on snow accumulation.

“In the inter-city of Toronto, we’re expecting about five to 10 centimetres, that will warrant our snow plowing operations on the expressway or the arterial roads. Once we get to eight centimetres in the suburbs so to speak, Etobicoke, North York, Scarborough, we’ll have to plow the local roads as well,” he said.

Sferrazza said due to the expected severity of the storm all of the city’s infrastructure, including all roads, sidewalks, bicycle lanes and bus stops, will receive treatment, whether it be salting or plowing.

With blizzard-like conditions expected, the city is urging residents not to travel and stay home.

“If you must travel please try to use public transit, use the TTC. But the conditions in this situation will be very dangerous. So we’re advising if you have to travel please (travel) very, very carefully,” Sferrazza said.

Toronto Hydro is preparing to respond to possible power outages thi.

The hydro corporation says it is monitoring the storm and will have “additional crews available to work around the clock” to restore power as quickly as possible.

If Torontonians notice any downed powerlines, Toronto Hydro says to stay at least 10 metres back and report it immediately to 416-542-8000.

In addition, if residents encounter any downed trees or branches the city is encouraging them to report it by calling 311.

DELAYS, CANCELLATIONS AT PEARSON AIRPORT

Ontario isn’t the only province dealing with treacherous weather conditions as much of Western Canada is currently under an extreme cold weather alert.

A winter storm struck B.C. earlier this week, causing massive delays and cancellations at Vancouver International Airport, which in turn caused numerous flight delays and cancellations in Toronto.

More than 1,000 flights have been cancelled by Air Canada and WestJet over recent days due to the storm.

Toronto International Pearson Airport is advising travellers about more possible delays and cancellations today and this weekend.

“We are still seeing some ripple effects here from the Vancouver storm and I think it will be a few days, it could even go into the weekend, what we’re seeing,” Greater Toronto Airports Authority Spokesperson Tori Gass told CP24 on Friday.

Gass added that the airport expects to see up to 130,000 travellers on its busiest day of the holiday season, though the airport is not sure what day that will be.

“But we’re not back to pre-pandemic levels so while this is really busy, busiest holiday since the pandemic began, we’re still not at those levels. The airlines are still not running fully at what we were before,” she said.

The airport is urging travellers to check the status of their flight with airlines before heading out the door.

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