Police forces across a large swath of Southwestern Ontario are urging drivers to avoid travel if at all possible due to dangerous driving conditions caused by a sudden onslaught of blustery winter weather that's led to at least one fatality. 

What Environment Canada described as "a wall of snow" caused whiteout conditions and extremely poor visibility Thursday morning that paralyzed highways and created multi-vehicle crashes in many parts of the province.

The squalls hit during the late part of the morning commute, but were short-lived in urban areas like Kitchener and Waterloo, where intense snowfall lasted for about a half-hour around 9:00 a.m.

Waterloo Regional Police, meanwhile, advised drivers to avoid commuting in the Elmira area, as well as in Wellesley and Woolwich townships. As of 10:15 a.m., police were responding to over 25 collision reports across the region.

The sudden blustery conditions forced police to close parts of major highways in rural regions around southwestern Ontario, including the 400, 401 and 402.

Ontario Provincial Police in Lambton County have also reported one fatality that occurred on the westbound lanes of Highway 402 just west of Oil Heritage Road.

Closures included:

  • The westbound lanes of Highway 401 near Woodstock, where there were multiple vehicle collisions.
  • The westbound lanes of Highway 401 at Highway 6 south near Guelph, where a five-car crash was reported.
  • Highway 401 eastbound at Oxford Road 29.
  • Highway 401 westbound at Cedar Creek. 
  • Highway 402 between Highway 401 and Lambton County.
  • All southbound lanes of Highway 400 near Innisfil Road after OPP and ambulance crews attended the scene of 60-car pileup

Meanwhile, provincial police closed also all roads in some counties, including Perth and Huron, where whiteouts are keeping emergency crews busy. 

Environment Canada issues wind chill warning

Environment Canada warned affected areas would get a "quick two to four centimetres of snow" as an Arctic cold front with a section of heavy snow flurries moved through the area. 

The agency warned that drivers should take care, saying visibility may suddenly be reduced to 250 metres or less because of heavy snow and "will result in hazardous driving conditions."

Environment Canada ended its snow squall warning at 11 a.m. but issued a windchill warning for much of Southern Ontario, including Waterloo Region, Wellington County including Guelph and Erin and Oxford County.