Big storm on track to hammer Hamilton, Environment Canada says
Check back with CBC Hamilton on Friday morning for details about the commute, school closures and school bus cancellations.
Environment Canada maintained its winter storm warning Thursday night for Hamilton and much of southern Ontario, a region extending from London through to Peterborough.
Although the snow was light in Hamilton Thursday evening, Environment Canada continued to forecast 10 centimetres for the city overnight and another 15 cm to come on Friday.
The storm is the combination of two weather systems that merged in the eastern United States. Many cities in the northeast corridor are expecting blizzard conditions on Friday. Parts of New England are predicting accumulations of up to 60 cm and Boston could see nearly a metre of snow before the storm ends.
Nearly 3,000 flights in the U.S. had been cancelled as of Thursday evening due to the storm.
The weather conditions are expected to move through Ontario on Friday. The storm will bring heavy snowfall from south-western through to eastern Ontario, parts of Quebec and Eastern Canada.
"The heaviest snow will occur during the Friday morning rush hour along the Highway 401 corridor from London to the Greater Toronto Area and through the Golden Horseshoe," Environment Canada said.
The city of Hamilton has issued a Winter Storm Warning, and says its website will provide winter control updates by 9 a.m., 12 p.m., 4 p.m., and 11 p.m. over the next two days.
The Golden Horseshoe region could receive its most significant snowfall in five years, according to CBC meteorologist Claire Martin.
"It's been a long time since we've seen a snowfall this heavy," said CBC meteorologist Jay Scotland. "And we're not just looking at snow. Things will be really bad in terms of visibility for Friday morning."
Environment Canada warned commuters that blowing snow could make for hazardous travelling conditions Thursday night and Friday, with strong easterly winds, freezing rain and ice pellets possible over southwestern Ontario.
Snowclearing under scrutiny
The heavy snow predicted for the region has some Hamiltonians wondering how well the snow plow crews will cope. Scorn was heaped upon Hamilton's snowclearing staff in December when several city side streets went unplowed for hours, even days, following a heavy snowfall.
Coun. Sam Merulla called for a refund from private plows after receiving "hundreds" of public complaints about the state of city streets. This time, Merulla is hoping for a better result.
"Based on the reports and updates from city staff, we've identified the problems from the fiasco during the Christmas break," he said.
"The proof will be in the execution from the next 48 hours."
The city's manager of roads and maintenance, Darrell Smith, told CBC Hamilton that, "We have taken the time between the last snow event and this one to make sure that the service gaps experienced in December will not be experienced now."
Smith added that 105 city-owned snowclearing vehicles and another 330 contracted plows are ready to go. "If the storm proceeds as forecasted, we will be activating the entire fleet."
The City will clear "Priority 1" roads first, such as the Lincoln M. Alexander Parkway, Red Hill Valley Parkway, escarpment crossings, and arterial roads.
The city asks that Hamilton residents clear the sidewalks in front of their homes and businesses, and:
- Park vehicles off the street where possible.
- Check for Snow Route, No Stopping and No Parking signs when parking on streets.
- Take public transit (visit the HSR website for information on fares, schedules and connections with GO Transit and Burlington Transit).
- If you must drive, give yourself more time to reach your destination. Always drive according to weather and road conditions.
- Keep tuned in to a local radio station to listen for a possible snow emergency to be declared later.
Residents can report unplowed streets 24 hours after the snow has stopped falling by calling 905-546-2489 or e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Hamilton fire department is also asking residents to clear away the snow around fire hydrants. "A delay caused by a hydrant buried in a snow drift can significantly impact efforts to save lives and minimize property damage," the department said in a statement Thursday.
It added that vent pipes from furnaces and hot water heaters can easily be buried in snow drifts, and although built in safety features should cause a furnace to shut down if the vent is blocked, carbon monoxide build-ups may still occur prior to the shut-down.
"Citizens with direct vent appliances — high/mid-efficiency furnaces and some natural gas water heaters — are asked to check their vent pipes and remove all snow from around the pipes."
Even with the snowplows on the streets, a major snowfall will make for a difficult Friday morning rush-hour commute anywhere along the Highway 401 corridor from London to the GTA and through the Golden Horseshoe.
GO trains and buses were experiencing delays Thursday night. For the latest route information, see the Go Transit service update page.
The Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board and the Catholic School Board say they won't make decisions about school and bus cancellations until early Friday morning, once the storm's impact has been evaluated.
The City of Hamilton says the storm may disrupt waste collection on Friday. It says that due to the storm, residents don't have to put their garbage out tomorrow — even if waste collection goes ahead, limits will be waived for the areas affected on the next garbage pickup on Feb. 15.
Pearson International Airport has posted a weather alert on its website, warning that those scheduled to travel on Friday should check the status of their flight before leaving for the airport. Even if the runways are cleared in Toronto, other airports in Canada and the U.S. may be snowed in.