Record-breaking snowfall buries Toronto in white
City crews will be busy overnight clearing sidewalks and major roads in time for Thursday commute
It's officially the snowiest Feb. 27 in Toronto since 1938.
By mid-afternoon, 15 centimetres of snow had already fallen on the city, smashing the previous snowfall record for this day, which was set in 2013.
Environment Canada is predicting that the heavy snow of the afternoon will taper off to periods of light snow this evening before stopping altogether — though some parts of the city could see up to 20 centimetres by the time night falls.
The snowfall warning in Toronto has ended, with the last of the snow expected to taper off by about 8 p.m.
The winter storm came as a low pressure system from the U.S. Midwest makes its way north, bringing with it freezing temperatures. Toronto's top medical official issued an extreme cold warning early Wednesday, asking residents to be mindful of the risk of frostbite as wind chill values approach –17.
OPP Sgt. Kerry Schmidt started out the day by advising people to stay off the roads if they could.
"Today would be a great day to stay home," Schmidt said.
The remainder of the work week is expected to be chilly but also sunny, with a high of –3 C on Thursday and 0 C on Friday.
The fallout ... and the cleanup
Many people, of course, could not stay home, resulting in collisions around the GTA — including a dozen on west end highways this morning alone.
TTC passengers were also warned of delays across the system due to the snow.
Once commuters are safely at home, the real work for city crews begins.
Some 1,500 workers have been marshalled to deal with the snow, with a plan to have the bulk of the cleanup of major roads done in time for the Thursday morning rush hour.
Main road plowing commenced at approx 1pm and is continuing. 2 rounds plus cleanup will be required and should be complete in advance of the Thursday am rush hour.—@TO_WinterOps
Sidewalk plowing on busy streets began this afternoon, while quieter streets will be serviced overnight beginning at 2 a.m., with the job expected to be done by 3 p.m. on Thursday.
The city is asking people to give snow-clearing equipment time and space. Residents should also wait "several hours" after the snow has stopped falling to contact 311 with snow clearing requests, said spokesperson Eric Holmes.
Here is a sneak peak of what commuters might encounter this afternoon. Visibility may also be reduced, be prepare for changing conditions. For more Forecasted Driving conditions please visit <a href="https://t.co/HxJv9vA5to">https://t.co/HxJv9vA5to</a> <a href="https://t.co/7Mz4D3qnSB">pic.twitter.com/7Mz4D3qnSB</a>—@511Ontario
There's still money in the $90-million snow-clearing budget to handle the weather, and that snow-clearing contracts are "very flexible this year," he added.
Some 571 road plows and driveway machines will be used to deal with the storm, as well as 202 salt trucks.
School closures, bus cancellations
As a result of the storm, school bus service on Wednesday was cancelled by the following GTA boards (though schools remained open):
- Peel District School Board.
- Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board.
- York Region District School Board.
- York Catholic District School Board.
- Durham District School Board.
- Durham Catholic District School Board.
Meanwhile, all bus service was cancelled and schools and facilities were closed for the day in the following boards:
- Halton District School Board.
- Halton Catholic District School Board.
- Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board.
Centennial College also announced it was closing all of its campuses at 12:30 p.m. due to the weather.