Poor driving conditions span northeastern Ont.

It is continuing to be a busy day on the roads for provincial police in the northeast as drifting and blowing snow whips its way across several highways still affected by Wednesday's freezing rain.

School bus cancellations, highway closures continue

Despite Wednesday's blast of icy rain and snow, the OPP says drivers in the region got through the day fairly unscathed, as there were no serious injuries or fatalities. Yvon Theriault/Radio-Canada (Yvon Theriault/Radio-Canada )

It is continuing to be a busy day on the roads for provincial police in the northeast as drifting and blowing snow whips its way across several highways still affected by Wednesday's freezing rain.

According to the Ministry of Transporation, as of 9:30 a.m., several highways around the northeast were again closed:

  • Highway 11, from Matheson to Kapuskasing
  • Highway 101, between Matheson and Porcupine. There is no estimated opening time.
  • Highway 655, from Driftwood to Timmins.
  • Highway 129, from Chapleau to Thessalon.

School break?

It's virtually been a second winter break for some students. With all the bus cancellations this week, the Sudbury’s Rainbow School board says exams that were supposed to happen this week will now happen on Monday.

That's because the nasty winter weather has meant many students in the city have only been in class for a single day this week.

For the elementary kids whose parents didn't drive them to school when buses were cancelled, they won’t have to return to school until Monday. That’s because Friday is a PD Day for teachers in all boards across Greater Sudbury.

Meanwhile students at the post secondary level were back on campus Thursday after the threat of Wednesday's ice storm all but shut down the campuses at Laurentian University and Cambrian College in Sudbury, and Nipissing University in North Bay.

The status of all roads across the northeast is changing frequently, so people are encouraged to refer to the Ministry of Transportation web site for more information, police said. [See external link to right of story]

Inspector Mark Andrews noted the OPP communications centre in North Bay handled more than 1,300 calls yesterday — the normal call volume the OPP receive on a holiday weekend in the summer.

Despite Wednesday's blast of icy rain and snow, drivers in the region got through the day fairly unscathed, as there were no serious injuries or fatalities, he added.

Andrews said the hours-long highway closures were far from an overreaction, as roads outside city limits were like sheets of ice, with many cars and transport trucks in the ditch.

"It could be very nice looking out your window but … four-five miles away it was a completely different set of weather conditions," Andrews said.

"I know there were a lot of people inconvenienced, but those folks need to look at each other across the breakfast table and be grateful they're still here."

School buses cancelled — again

For the third day in a row, school buses were cancelled due to bad weather and slick road conditions for Sudbury, Massey and Espanola. Manitoulin Island buses were operating, however.

Schools across the region were to remain open Thursday, but for secondary students, all exams were rescheduled.

A flight cancellation and a departure delay was also reported at the Sudbury airport. Travellers have been reminded to check the status of flights before leaving for the airport.

Wednesday's weather recap

Thursday's weather woes follow a full day of transportation upset on Wednesday. All highways across northeastern Ontario were closed at points on Wednesday morning due to the extreme weather and poor road conditions, police said.

At one point in Sudbury, every provincial highway in and out of the city was closed. OPP said freezing rain and a rain warning was still in place, as temperatures were set to drop from above-zero to about -6C Wednesday afternoon.

While most school buses in the region were cancelled Wednesday morning, schools remained open. But that quickly changed as the day progressed and OPP reported road conditions were expected to deteriorate for the rest of the day.

An official with the Sudbury Student Services Consortium asked parents to pick up their children at schools in Sudbury, Massey, Espanola and Manitoulin as soon as possible.

A placard warns motorists of a Hwy. 17 closure, west of Sudbury. (Yvon Theriault/Radio-Canada)

'Just terrible out there'

In Sudbury, city buses were pared back to main artery routes and trans-cab services were cancelled, but some city bus routes were restored to full service later in the day.

Cambrian College, Laurentian University and Nipissing University shut down all-but-essential on-campus operations. Other agencies, like the health unit, institutions and businesses followed suit.

The messy weather also dealt a blow to air travel as some flights in and out of the Sudbury airport were delayed or cancelled.

Canada Post tweeted Sudbury would not have mail service.

OPP inspector Mark Andrews said drivers should be wary of hydroplaning — and even flooding — in some areas.

"It's just terrible out there," he said, adding that conditions were not expected to improve any time soon.

"The conditions are going to worsen, the temperature is going to go down and we're going to have even worse driving conditions."

'Use some common sense'

Even the OPP detachment at Still River had to close due to the amount of water over Highway 69. Operations at that detachment were moved to Parry Sound.

OPP Inspector Mark Andrews (CBC)

"We've had so much rain that there's nowhere for the rain to go and the ground is frozen, and that's one of the reasons why Highway 69 has water over it as well," Andrews said.

"There's just no place for this water to go."

While many people pulled over to the side of the road as conditions deteriorated, there were still multiple collisions all over the highways, Andrews noted.

"Just while I was out on the highways dealing with some of this stuff, we still had people driving very aggressively, changing lanes, hitting these major pools of water, burying other vehicles under their wash," he said.

"We need people to use some common sense here."

Drivers who still had to venture out agreed.

Sudbury resident Betty-Anne McPherson said there was no traction as she drove on roads west of Sudbury on Wednesday morning.

"It's an absolute sheet of ice," she said. "All the cars and all the transport trucks are pulled over."

A provincial police SUV monitors a Sudbury area highway. (Yvon Theriault/Radio-Canada)

OPP are asking people not to call them for road closure information, after receiving more than 600 calls Wednesday morning. People are asked to call the Ministry of Transportation instead at 1-800-268-4686 or 511.

Coping while stuck

The highway reopenings was good news for people like Ashley Paquette. The Greyhound bus on which was a passenger was stuck on Highway 69 from about 5:30 a.m. Paquette tweeted updates from from the bus. She said everyone, including a toddler, held up well.

Paquette said the stuck bus was flanked in the front and the back by transport trucks carrying groceries. The bus driver went to see about some water for the roughly two-dozen passengers, but there was nothing available.

The driver was doing a good job to help passengers, Paquette said.

"She's been really great with everyone," she tweeted. "Allowing everyone to go out for smoke breaks ... with the toddler, too, she's keeping him entertained and she's keeping everyone updated ... with the information that I guess she's receving from her end."