Snowfall begins in northwestern Ontario as major storm coming in from Prairies makes presence felt
Environment Canada warns as much as 60 cm of snow in some areas of the Ontario region
A spring storm forecasted to create blizzard conditions across three provinces has started to bring snow to northwestern Ontario.
Snow started falling in the Ontario region on Wednesday morning as the storm tracked north across the Canada-U.S. border. It's also affecting Saskatchewan and Manitoba, where 80 cm could fall before the system moves through, according to forecast models.
In northwestern Ontario, several communities near the Manitoba border are under winter storm warnings that project between 25 and 60 centimetres of snow could fall throughout the week.
Steven Flisfeder, a warning preparedness meteorologist with Environment Canada, said the snow had been forecasted to start falling earlier, but it doesn't change how much is expected to accumulate.
"They've had a bit of a slower start to the storm than we were expecting," Flisfeder said. "That being said, it has developed a little more, especially the winds kicking in, lifting up that snow and creating visibility hazards.
"Right now it's on pace to what we were expecting, just a little bit later than we had thought originally."
Buses parked, delays expected for snow clearing
The City of Kenora declared a significant weather event, cautioning that delays for snow clearing should be expected. City officials said the priorities are main roads as well as sidewalks.
Kenora shut down its municipal public transit service on Wednesday, for the full day. The Northwestern Ontario Student Services Consortium parked all of its school buses.
Mayor Dan Reynard said road crews had been out trying to stay on top of the situation, with an afternoon pause in the snowfall helping those efforts
Reynard said people in the city are ready to be done with winter.
"Every day you wake up with the hope that the sun's going to shine, it's going to be warm, grass is going to start showing. And every day it's like it's still damn cold and it's dreary," Reynard said. "I think people are just definitely down. They just want the winter to be over, especially when you consider basically from January on, not only did we get a lot of snow, it's been damn cold."
As of early in the afternoon, there had not been any significant highway closures in the region.
Corinne Hildebrandt, who lives in Kenora just north of Highway 17A, said the storm started to make its impact throughout Wednesday morning.
"The wind is definitely picking up. Visibility is getting poorer," she said.
Hildebrandt said she anticipates being without electricity if the weather intensifies.
"I've made sure we have pails of water for our toilet," she said. "I've found my battery pack for my cellphone. I, like many other people, have purchased food we can eat without power."
Flisfeder said areas to the north, including Red Lake and Sioux Lookout, will receive snow as the storm tracks.
Red Lake Mayor Fred Mota said there were high winds earlier in the day, with a few sporadic power outages. Snow is expected to pick up in that area later in the afternoon, he added.
"It's going to create some havoc on our roadways and transportation throughout the municipality," Mota said.
Mota said the municipality has had discussions with the provincial wildfire management headquarters in Red Lake, with resources including portable generators, chainsaw operators and propane heaters available if needed.
"We're hoping we don't have to reach that point, but our community partners are stepping up and we're thankful for that."
Snow expected for Thunder Bay
While the western portions of the region are bracing for heavy snow, Thunder Bay and areas along the north shore of Lake Superior are preparing for a mix of precipitation, potentially snow mixed with ice pellets and freezing rain.
Forecasts earlier in the week had initially predicted Thunder Bay would receive mostly rain, but on Wednesday afternoon, Environment Canada issued a weather advisory indicating the city could receive up to 10 centimetres of snow and ice pellets overnight.
That snow is expected to continue through Thursday night, before changing to a chance of flurries on Friday.
The Lakehead Region Conservation Authority issued a flood outlook statement for Thunder Bay and surrounding areas on Tuesday. It cautioned the rainfall will likely lead to a rise in flowing water in local waterways, ponding in low-lying areas, and areas with frozen ditches and blocked culverts.
System rocks the Prairies
Though the system has not appeared particularly bad in northwestern Ontario by Wednesday afternoon, the Prairies have been pounded with snow.
The RCMP have closed several highways in Manitoba, power is out and Winnipeg has closed schools for the first time in 25 years.
The Colorado low is expected to stall over Minnesota, keeping Manitoba and northern Ontario in its sights through to Friday.