Parts of southern Ontario can expect near 40 cm of snow in total, Environment Canada says
Overnight storm resulted in multiple school closures across the province Tuesday
Digging and plowing ensued Tuesday morning as people in southern Ontario woke up to more than 20 centimetres of snow in some regions after a heavy snowfall, resulting in multiple school closures across the province.
Some areas saw strong winds, gusting up to 60 km/h Monday night into Tuesday morning, Environment Canada said.
On Tuesday, the federal agency issued an alert for hazardous winter conditions for southern Ontario as the snow continued, saying total snowfall amounts of 25 to 35 centimetres are expected before snow tapers off early Tuesday afternoon.
"Even higher amounts of snow may be possible, up to 40 centimetres, in some locations due to extra moisture coming off Lake Ontario. Locally higher amounts may also occur on the higher elevations of the escarpment," the alert reads.
Blowing snow and northeast winds gusting at near 50 km per hour will result in "very poor visibility."
Local blowing snow may persist until late Tuesday afternoon, the agency said.
Earlier, Brian Owsiak, a severe weather meteorologist with Environment Canada, said the snowfall began around 7 p.m. ET Monday night and picked up in intensity later in the night, but he said the heaviest snowfall has passed.
"The worst is over," said Owsiak.
Multiple schools cancelled in-person learning and transportation services — the same day school boards in Toronto, Peel Region and York Region were expected to welcome students back into schools after a stretch of online learning that began in January.
Many schools remain open, but check with your board or school for more information.
Owsiak said travel conditions are "definitely difficult this morning given the snowfall amount" and drivers should expect to see drifting and blowing snow across the roads.
"If people can stay home for at least part of the morning, it definitely would be easier for them," he said, noting that it will take a few hours for the snow-covered roads to be cleared.
Around 100 crashes in past 24 hours, OPP says
Sgt. Kerry Schmidt, spokesperson for the Ontario Provincial Police Highway Safety Division, said around 100 crashes were reported on the province's highways in the Greater Toronto Area in the past 24 hours.
He said at least a dozen crashes are on the go right now, but there have been no serious injuries or fatalities reported.
Travel conditions are still poor, he said, and he advised drivers to avoid unnecessary travel.
"Let the essential workers get to where they're needing to go and let the plows do the job that they need to do," Schmidt said.
Drivers who are involved in a collision should remain in their vehicles, move to the side of the road and wait for official assistance if required, he said.
<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/OPP?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#OPP</a> have received reports of multiple collisions in Southern Ontario overnight and this morning. Please slow down, turn on your full lighting system and drive according to the weather and driving conditions. ^nk <a href="https://t.co/JfaGGeX11r">pic.twitter.com/JfaGGeX11r</a>—@OPP_GTATraffic
Transportation systems have been affected by the winter storm, with the transit system in the province's largest city telling customers to prepare for longer-than-normal wait times on all streetcar routes due to weather and operational issues.
Toronto police are already dealing with two three-car collisions and another issue where there were reports of a snow plow hitting a gas line.
While Toronto saw 15 cm of snow overnight, and an extreme cold weather alert (ECWA) was issued Tuesday morning, its largest school board remains open for in-person learning.
In a news release, the city said ECWAs are issued when the temperature in the daily forecast are expected to reach approximately –15 C or colder, or when the wind chill is forecast to reach –20 or colder.
A stay-at-home order remains in place in Toronto, although essential workers still have to make their way to their jobs.
'It's not safe out there': Snowplow driver
Eric Holmes, spokesperson for the City of Toronto, said the city has 1,100 snow-clearing vehicles. He had said Monday that he expected all of them to be put to use overnight into Tuesday morning.
One of those vehicles out on the slippery roads Tuesday morning was operated by Larry Richards, president and owner of East-West Snow Services.
"I kind of like the thrill of the chase; I don't mind a lot of snow like this," Richards told Metro Morning's Ismaila Alfa.
Although he takes pride in helping to prevent slips and falls, he warned that those who don't have to be on the roads should stay off of them.
"You're taking your life in your hands, you know. It's not safe out there," Richards said.
For drivers, the most critical mistake is travelling "way too fast" for the weather conditions, he said.
Another is not giving snowplows a wide enough berth to do their jobs.
"When you see a snowplow, stay away as far as you can," he said.
Delivery driver Tina DeJersey said she's seen people blowing turns and having trouble stopping.
She called the situation "miserable" and said she's already driven sideways herself.
Another driver said he had no complaints, even when he opened his door to find about a foot of snow.
"It's Canada," he said. "It's wonderful in that way."