Toronto

More snow, deep freeze in GTA this week will make it feel like you're shovelling 'concrete'

Environment Canada says to expect between two to five centimetres of snow to fall by Wednesday, followed by freezing temperatures that will harden the snow on the ground and make it more difficult to remove.

Homeowners, renters should take precautions to prevent damage from snow buildup, expert says

A man digs out a car in Toronto's Beach neighbourhood after a significant dump of snow on Jan. 17, 2022. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

If you haven't removed the snow from your front porch, driveway or walkways yet after Monday's storm, it's time to get out a shovel. 

Two days after 45 centimetres of snow fell on some parts of the Greater Toronto Area, more is on the way. Environment Canada says we should expect between two to five centimetres to fall by Wednesday, adding another layer of snowpack to Monday's pile.

After a brief period of temperatures slightly above zero with some rain or flurries Wednesday, the mercury is expected to fall well below the freezing point overnight, hardening the snow on the ground and making it more difficult to scoop and scrape away.

"What that's going to do is have a layer of melting on the top of the snow, which is kind of going to make it a little more compact, a little trickier to get rid of if you haven't had an opportunity to shovel your pathways or driveways yet," said Steven Flisfeder, a warning preparedness meteorologist with the federal weather agency.

"Any new snow and all the snow that's already on the ground, it's going to be pretty much like concrete."

The City of Toronto deployed 600 plows and 200 salt trucks to clear snow and melt ice on public roads, sidewalks, bike lanes and trails, Mayor John Tory said at a news conference Tuesday, but it will take several more days before they are completely cleared.

"You have to do the plowing first and then begin the snow removal and it is something that is going to take time," Tory said.

"Work is ongoing 24 hours a day until the job is done."

A man uses a snow blower to clear snow on Jan. 18, 2022. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Preventing safety issues, property damage

The buildup of snow and the extreme cold temperatures present a number of potential safety issues and the risk of property damage, one expert says, which can be avoided with a few simple precautions.

"Heavy snow is not rare in Canada," said Glenn McGillivray, managing director of the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction, a research organization affiliated with Western University in London, Ont. 

"We do a pretty good job at preventing property damage from snow and ice, but there are still issues here and there."

McGillivray said the first priority for homeowners and renters alike should be ensuring their furnaces are venting properly. That means removing any snow or ice that might be blocking the intake vent, which sucks air into the home, and the exhaust vent that expels it.

Failing to do this can result in carbon monoxide poisoning. The Toronto Fire Service said it received 30 calls related to carbon monoxide between Sunday and Tuesday at 12:30 p.m. alone.

Residential streets in Toronto's Junction Triangle, north of Bloor St., were mostly cleared Tuesday after a snowstorm the day before. Environment Canada says an average of between 30 and 34 centimetres fell across much of the Greater Toronto Area, with some areas seeing as much as 45 centimetres. (Patrick Morrell/CBC)

While flooding isn't an immediate risk given that temperatures will remain low in the coming days, McGillivray said it's a good idea for those who are able to remove snow from the perimeter of their house to do so.

Removing snow from walkways and patios ahead of time can prevent water from seeping into basements when it does melt in the late winter and early spring.

"It will melt at some point and it may overload your weeping tiles," said McGillivray, referring to a system of pipes used to divert underground water away from a home. "If you have a sump pump system, that may overwhelm that sump pump system and you could face basement flooding."

Some other tips that homeowners and residents should consider during periods of heavy snow and extreme weather include:

  • Make sure to shovel the sidewalk outside your home or business. The City of Toronto has a bylaw requiring that home, property and business owners clear the adjacent sidewalk of snow or ice within 12 hours of the end of a snowfall, or they could be fined.
  • Check your roof to make sure that ice dams don't develop. Ice dams are a ridge of ice that builds up at the edge of a roof or around drains and prevents snow or water from melting. They are formed by heat escaping from the upper floors of a home and can potentially cause water to leak into walls, ceilings or the attic.
  • Prepare for possible power outages by stocking food, water, candles, blankets and an emergency kit.

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