Authorities are advising Hamiltonians to stay safe during a possible ice storm on Saturday evening. 

Environment Canada issued a freezing rain warning for the city early on Saturday morning, as residents woke up to wet, foggy conditions.

Temperatures are expected to hover just above the freezing mark until around 8 p.m., said Geoff Coulson, a meteorologist with Environment Canada.

That’s when sub-zero temperatures are set to turn rain into freezing drizzle, foisting ice and sleet onto the city.

The ice storm is expected to worsen overnight as a result of a weather system coming up from the U.S., Coulson said.

“That freezing rain could become heavy at times as we get another shot of this weather coming up from the American southwest,” he said.

Travel delays

The possible ice storm threatens to make getting around difficult for thousands of people travelling through or within southern Ontario. The last Saturday before Christmas, today is believed to be the busiest travel day of the year. 

'Always, our tips for drivers, especially during inclement weather, are to slow down and drive to the conditions.' —Frank Miscione, Hamilton Police Service

By the early afternoon, Coulson said, areas north of Toronto were experiencing already freezing rain. And Pearson International Airport had observed freezing drizzle before 1:30 p.m.

The airport was reporting a significant number of delays and some cancellations, mostly among arriving flights, by early Saturday afternoon. Travellers are advised to check with their airline before heading to the airport. 

Air Canada has waived fees for passengers who change their flight plans due to weather.

"The next few days are not looking good for travel," said CBC meteorologist Claire Martin.

"It's not like you can avoid certain highways and hope that they'll be dry and fine," said Martin. "You're into snow to the north of this system and rain to the south. So it's going to be messy.”

Staff Sgt. Frank Miscione, of the Hamilton Police Service, advised motorists to be extremely cautious on the roads. 

“Always, our tips for drivers, especially during inclement weather, are to slow down and drive to the conditions.”

Preparing for power outages

Horizon Utilities, which provides hydro service to thousands of households and businesses across Hamilton, said crews are on stand-by to respond to possible power outages.

Falling ice or storm-damaged tree branches can fall on hydro lines, downing power for a particularly area, said Larry Roberts, a Horizon Utilities spokesman.

“We’re watching the progression of the storm and preparing for if we need to bring crews in to repair outages related to the weather today and tomorrow morning.”

If you see a downed utility line, Roberts stressed, do not touch it — it may still be live, posing a severe threat of electrocution. 

Instead, report any fallen lines or power outages to the company’s 24-hour hotline at 905-522-6611.

If a power line falls on roadway, sidewalk or house, Roberts added, “it may be necessary to call 9-1-1.”

Horizon Utilities has provided a number of safety tips related to power outages during the possible ice storm:

  • Keep an emergency kit with bottled water, flashlight and batteries, candles, holders and matches, battery-powered radio and alarm clock.
  • Leave one light on to so you know when the power has been restored.
  • Do not open the refrigerator or freezer door while the power is off. Most foods will stay frozen for at least 12 hours, refrigerated for 16 hours.
  • Never use a barbecue indoors. Carbon monoxide emissions can cause asphyxiation.
  • Plug in only the most essential appliances. If you wait 10 to 15 minutes before reconnecting, the system has time to stabilize.
  • Do not leave candles burning unattended.