Greater Toronto Area residents are being urged to limit travel as a major blizzard continues to slam the area, forcing road closures and a delay to in-person learning for students on Monday.
By the end of the day, the city and surrounding areas could get as much as 60 centimetres of snow, according to Environment Canada.
The weather agency issued a blizzard warning this morning, upgrading from a winter storm warning. The weather agency said the storm could cause serious problems in dense urban areas.
It warned of hazardous conditions with heavy snow and strong winds resulting in “widespread near-zero visibility.”
A CBC Toronto reporter out on the ground reported shortly after 6 a.m. that the snow’s falling so fast that as soon as work crews clear it, it starts accumulating again.
Gusting winds of up to 60 km/h combined with hourly snowfall of between eight and 10 centimetres during the morning could produce treacherous conditions for drivers and other commuters, Environment Canada cautioned.
Snow started coming down in the early morning hours, with several centimetres already starting to accumulate in much of Toronto and surrounding areas.
“There may be a significant impact on rush-hour traffic in urban areas,” the federal weather agency said earlier Monday, advising people that “rapidly accumulating snow will make traffic difficult.”
Shortly after 10:15 a.m., Toronto police announced the temporarily closure of the Don Valley Parkway and Gardiner Expressway, two of the city’s major arteries, due to the “extreme weather.”
The blizzard is due to a low-pressure system tracking south of the Great Lakes, Environment Canada said.
On CBC Radio’s Metro Morning on Monday, meteorologist Colette Kennedy said that as of this morning, some parts of the city had already seen over 35 centimetres of snow.
The last time Toronto saw a storm with over 25 centimetres was in 2019, and the last time it was over 30 centimetres was in 2008.
Toronto under extreme cold weather alert
The City of Toronto has also issued an extreme cold weather alert Monday as the blizzard continues to hammer the GTA.
Environment Canada says Toronto residents can expect a high of –6 C during the day with a wind chill of –15 in the morning and –12 in the afternoon.
The city says it is activating the following warming centres that will be open at 7 p.m.:
- 129 Peter St.
- 5800 Yonge St.
- Exhibition Place, Better Living Centre, 195 Princes’ Blvd.
- Scarborough Civic Centre, 150 Borough Dr.
Other parts of Ontario are expected to be hit even harder than the GTA. The heaviest snowfall is forecasted for eastern Ontario and the Niagara Peninsula, as well as parts of Simcoe County.
Ontarians should consider postponing any non-essential trips until the storm relents, Environment Canada urged.
“Surfaces such as highways, roads, walkways and parking lots may become difficult to navigate due to accumulating snow. Visibility may be suddenly reduced at times in heavy snow,” the agency noted.
Dozens of collisions reported on GTA roads
Sgt. Kerry Schmidt, spokesperson for the highway safety division of the Ontario Provincial Police, said that snowy road conditions have already led to dozens of collisions throughout the GTA.
“We’ve been going from call to call with this kind of situation, vehicles spinning out, losing control, either getting caught in the snowbanks, getting caught on the windrows and ending up in the ditch or into the wall,” Schmidt told CBC News.
“You can’t even see the road markings. It’s treacherous with lots of blowing snow out here.”
Schmidt said the snow was slowly dissipating on Highway 401 but there is still lots to work through.
“It’s crippling the highways. Now the plows can’t even get through the highways because we’ve got stopped traffic everywhere.”
The OPP are advising anyone who can to stay home.
“Stay off the highways as best you can, until the snow stops falling,” he said. “Let the plows do their work to clean the highways, then we’ll get back onto the roads.”
The TTC is also warning its customers to expect delays on bus and streetcar routes as a result of the road conditions.
The City of Toronto has 600 snow plows, 300 sidewalk plows, and 200 salt trucks working to clear the roads, according to its website.
Some boards closing schools, cancelling buses
The snowfall has added a wrinkle to the province’s already contentious school reopening plan.
Students across the province were supposed to return to school for in-person classes today after two weeks of virtual learning following the winter holidays.
The Toronto District and Toronto Catholic District school boards cancelled the planned return to in-class learning today because of the weather, but will continue to offer the option of remote learning.
Similar announcements have been made by York Region and Dufferin-Peel Catholic district school boards, along with both the public and Catholic boards in Halton, though remote learning is not being offered as an option.
Meanwhile, all Toronto Public Library branches will be closed on Monday due to the weather conditions.