Toronto storm: Drivers urged to stay off roads as wet snow continues to fall

A winter storm is bringing a mix of snow and freezing rain to the GTA today, potentially making for a messy commute home for drivers.

A winter weather travel advisory is in effect from Environment Canada for Toronto and most of southern Ontario. The GTA is expected to see as much as 10 centimetres of snow on the whole but Environment Canada has warned that some local areas could see as much as 15 cm. 

5 p.m. – OPP Sgt. Kerry Schmidt says that the mixed precipitation occurring across the GTA has meant that road conditions can differ from one area to another. He says that while most major routes have been salted now and are passable, there is some snow accumulation on shoulders and “roads that are less travelled.”

“Remember, we’re right on that freezing mark so where you start and where you finish at your destination, could have completely different driving conditions,” he said.

2:45 p.m. – OPP Sgt. Kerry Schmidt says that collision reporting centres across the GTA are starting to fill up due to a significant number of crashes on local roads. So far none of those collisions have resulted in serious injuries but Schmidt is warning drivers that road conditions will only worsen throughout the afternoon and into the evening.

“When it gets dark and the temperature continues to drop it is going to be nasty out there. If you don’t need to be on the roads stay home,” he said.

2 p.m. – Environment Canada has issued an updated winter weather travel advisory with a lower total snowfall accumulation of only five to 10 cm. It says that snowfall will continue throughout this afternoon before tapering to flurries or drizzle this evening. Drivers are still being warned to expect “hazardous winter driving conditions,” particularly during the afternoon commute.

12:30 p.m. – CP24 Meteorologist Bill Coulter says that a delay in the transition from rain and freezing rain to snow will lead to reduced accumulations in most parts of the GTA. Coulter says that he is now expecting snowfall amounts of five to 10 cm by Friday morning, however the total accumulation could still be higher north and east of Toronto.

12 p.m. – The City of Toronto says that it will open three warming centres at 7 p.m., despite usually only utilizing the facilities during extreme cold weather alerts. The warning centres are located at the Scarborough Civic Centre, Metro Hall and Mitchell Field Community Centre.

11:30 a.m. – CP24 Meteorologist Bill Coulter says that a cooler air mass is starting to move into the GTA and has brought about a change in the precipitation mix, with wet snow now falling in north Mississauga. He says that it could be as late as 1 p.m. before the rain will turn to snow closer to Lake Ontario.

“That will limit accumulation a little bit along the lakeshore but away from the water it will still probably be 10 cm by the time this is over,” he said.

10:50 a.m. – Traffic remains at a standstill on the Fort-Erie bound lanes of the Garden City Skyway in St. Catharines. OPP Sgt. Kerry Schmidt says that the roadway “is an absolute sheet of ice” and the gridlock is preventing salt trucks from being able to treat the road.

“We got crashes all over the place right now and we can’t get to them,” he says.

10:30 a.m. – Metrolinx says that it has put into place a “heavy winter snow plan” in order to preserve service during the storm. That plan involves the cancellation of express trains in order to reduce the need for moving between tracks amid messy weather. Spokesperson Matt Llewellyn says that there also could be “minor adjustments” to other train schedules.

“This afternoon, in particular for Lakeshore West, for Kitchener, for Barrie and for Milton customers as well there might be slight changes to the schedule,” he said. “That might mean waiting an extra 15 minutes, that might mean that your train comes an extra 10 minutes early. So be sure to check the schedule before heading out the door today.”

9:15 a.m. – At least 17 vehicles are involved in a pileup on the Garden City Skyway in St. Catharines, OPP Sgt. Kerry Schmidt has confirmed. The Fort Erie-bound lanes on the Queen Elizabeth Way are currently closed at the Garden City Skyway. At this point it is unclear whether the collision is weather-related.

9:05 a.m. – OPP Sgt. Kerry Schmidt tells CP24 that there are “multiple crashes” already occurring on GTA roads, particularly in the Burlington and Hamilton areas. He says that drivers should stay off the roads if they can.

“It is all coming east, it is coming our way,” he said of the weather system. “Stay off the roads and let the system pass. It is just not worth it you don’t actually have to be out there.”

9 a.m. – Environment Canada says that precipitation has moved in earlier than expected, increasing the risk for “imminent freezing rain.” It says that freezing rain has already been reported in Brampton and has been impacting southwestern Ontario all morning.

8:50 a.m. – The TTC says that it is suspending service to 41 bus stops on order to prevent vehicles “from getting stuck on known icy trouble spots on hills” during the storm. A full list of affected bus stops is available here. The TTC has also announced that the service on the Line 3 Scarborough RT will be suspended as of 10 a.m. with shuttle buses running in its place.

8:10 a.m. – The City of Mississauga says that temporary parking permits have been suspended until further notice. Residents are being asked to keep parked vehicles off streets to help accommodate snow clearing efforts later today.

7:15 a.m. – Air Canada says that the Greater Toronto Airports Authority has put flight restrictions in effect for the coming storm. It says that travellers should check their flight status before heading to the airport.

6 a.m. – A number of Greater Toronto Area school boards have cancelled bus service for the day, however schools remain open across the region. For a breakdown of how each board is responding to the storm follow this link.

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