Major winter storm hits Hamilton and Niagara, part of QEW closed for fatal crash

Hamilton police and Ontario provincial police are asking that residents avoid travel as freezing rain hits Hamilton and the Niagara region. Here's what the storm is looking like now.

Police are asking residents to avoid travel

A major storm is causing icy conditions in Hamilton and the Niagara region as freezing rain hits, followed by ice pellets. (Christine Rankin)

The freezing rain warning has ended for Hamilton and the Niagara region, but residents are now dealing with downed tress, power lines and outages. 

A major winter storm hit Hamilton, the Niagara region and much of southern Ontario on Sunday, pummeling it with hours of freezing rain and ice pellets for the majority of the day. 

The stormy weather and icy conditions continue to result in crashes on roadways and power outages across the region.  OPP Sgt. Kerry Schmidt said there were dozens of crashes across the GTA, with many in the Burlington and Niagara region. 

Just before 9 a.m. Sunday morning, OPP closed the QEW Fort Erie bound at Jordan Rd. in Lincoln for a fatal collision. It reopened around 4:45 p.m.   

Schmidt confirmed that a 24-year-old woman from St. Catharines was killed in the crash.

At around 8 a.m. this morning, the woman was driving an SUV when it collided with a transport truck. Schmidt said the woman was ejected onto the roadway and that there was debris all across the highway.

A third vehicle also collided into the two vehicles involved, but came to a stop a short ways down the road. 

Clean up crews were busy repairing guardrail damage and cleaning up debris and diesel spill. Niagara police attended the scene.

In a video posted to Twitter earlier Sunday, Schmidt said that he was speaking to the road supervisor at the site of the crash, who said it was "absolutely a skating rink in many areas." 

He also added that while the weather might not look so bad in some places, it's still dangerous outside. 

"When it doesn't look completely treacherous, people are going to think that it's manageable," he said. "But with the freezing ice and those pellets coming down, it can freeze on contact and it can cause a complete skating rink." 

Crashes, delays, and closures

Collisions continue to be reported and roads continue to be opened and closed as police attend to crashes. 

"Surfaces such as highways, roads, walkways and parking lots will become icy, slippery and hazardous," said Environment Canada in its warning Sunday morning. "Slow down driving in slippery conditions. Watch for taillights ahead and maintain a safe following distance. Beware of branches or electrical wires that could break under the weight of ice."

The OPP closed Eastport Drive between Lakeshore Road and Beach Boulevard and the lift bridge at around 11 a.m. This remains closed. 

Olympic Drive has also been closed since 11:15 a.m. in both directions between Cootes Drive and York Road. 

Ice is building up on tree branches and power lines with outages across areas such as Six Nations, Ancaster, and in the Niagara region. This downed tree is at St. Lawrence Catholic school in the north end. (Colin Côté-Paulette)

Strong winds gusting up to 70 km/h were also expected Sunday, along with several millimetres of ice build-up on tree branches and power lines, which could cause outages. 

Hydro One keeps a live map of power outages across the province where residents can look for estimated time restorations. 

Hamilton police are asking that residents consider delaying their travel plans and warning that the roads may be extremely slippery. 

Schmidt said that if people have to travel, they should be careful walking outside and completely scrape the ice off their vehicles before heading out. 

"If you can avoid any necessary travel today, please, that would probably be a good idea," he said. 

Some local businesses and facilities may be closing due to the poor weather — if headed outside, please check with them before you travel.  

The winter weather is also causing holiday festivities to be cancelled. The Burlington Santa Claus parade and Binbrook Santa Claus parades have both been cancelled due to the unsafe weather conditions.

The city of Burlington said the parade will not be rescheduled, while the Binbrook committee will be investigating to see if rescheduling is an option. 

The freezing rain warning has ended for the Burlington area. 

GO Transit is also experiencing delays due to the weather conditions. A power outage at Aldershot GO has taken elevators out of service — GO Transit is asking that passengers who need elevators to board at Appleby GO. 

Hamilton International Airport is also encouraging those travelling to check the status of their flights with their airline or online and to give themselves more time on the roads.