Weather: Ontario wakes up to major winter storm, widespread school closures

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Weather: Ontario wakes up to major winter storm, widespread school closures
Weather: Ontario wakes up to major winter storm, widespread school closures

A blast of winter weather has descended on the GTA and many parts of southern Ontario and it could drop as much as 25 centimetres of snow on parts of Toronto by Tuesday morning.

The snowfall began around 8:30 p.m. and is expected to continue into the morning.

Toronto and the regions of York, Halton, Durham, and Peel are all under a snowfall warning.

“Heavy snow is expected to move into the area this evening into Tuesday morning with snowfall accumulations near 15 cm, possibly reaching 20 to 25 cm in some places,” Environment Canada said in its warning.

Wind gusts of up to 50 km/h are also possible during the height of the storm, the weather agency said.

A winter storm warning is in effect for Burlington and Oakville, along with other parts of southern Ontario, including Hamilton and Niagara Region. Those regions could see between 20 and 35 centimetres of snow.

Environment Canada warned of “quickly changing” and “deteriorating” travel conditions into Tuesday morning.

“Visibility may be suddenly reduced at times in heavy snow. Surfaces such as highways, roads, walkways and parking lots may become difficult to navigate due to accumulating snow,” the advisory read.

The snow is expected to taper off by late Tuesday morning.

Snowstorm comes as kids return to in-person learning

The snowstorm is hitting the GTA just as thousands of kids get set to return to in-person learning.

In-class learning is resuming Tuesday for students in Toronto, Peel Region and York Region following an extended break from classroom learning because of COVID-19 lockdown measures.

In a tweet Monday night, the Toronto District School Board reminded parents that decisions about possible school and school bus closures will be made based on the best information available by 6 a.m.

The York Region District School Board also said it would make a decision about possible closures by 6 a.m., while the Peel Region District School Board said it would make its call by 6:15 a.m.

While a stay-at-home order remains in effect for Toronto, Peel and York, transit agencies and police also issued reminders to those who must venture out for essential purposes to leave themselves extra time to get around.

Eric Holmes, a spokesperson for the city’s transportation department, told CP24 late Monday that people should be prepared to spend more time getting around Tuesday.

“Start planning tonight for tomorrow morning,” Holmes said. “You’re going to need to build in extra time to get the kids out and to school on time, you’re going to need build in extra time to get out and shovel the sidewalk, as everybody has a role in clearing sidewalks in the city as well.”

Especially given the inclement weather, Holmes said, people should adhere to the stay-at-home order as much as possible.

“Give yourself lots of extra time to get to where you need to go, and then get back home so that you can follow the stay-at-home orders,” he said. “And if you see our snow clearing vehicles out there, give them time and space to do what they need to do to keep the roads safe.”

City says it’s ready

At around 9:40 p.m., the city said that winter operations had commenced on expressways and major roads.

At around 10:30 p.m., Ontario Provincial Police said they had already seen around 20 collisions in the GTA amid slippery road conditions.

Earlier in the day, Holmes said staff have been preparing for this winter storm since last week.

“With a storm of this size, the cleanup is an important thing,” he told CP24 on Monday morning. “As soon as the snow starts to accumulate, you are going to see the salt trucks out and they are going to make rounds and rounds and rounds to keep the roads as safe as possible.”

At 2.5 centimetres of accumulation, plows will hit expressways and at five centimetres, plowing operations will begin on major roads. Plows don’t begin clearing residential streets until there is eight centimetres of accumulation.

Holmes said even when the snow stops, there will still be a significant amount of work to do to clean up the streets.

“The cleanup following the storm, that is a nuanced operation. It can take days. So we ask people to wait to call 311 if they are concerned about the snow clearing operation,” he said. “That is because our crews are going to be out for the next couple days, plowing out roads, plowing out sidewalks, making transit stops safe. And that operation is going to continue.”

Environment Canada was predicting two rounds of heavy snow today.

The first blast of winter weather was expected to arrive this morning but never materialized.

Frigid temperatures today and tomorrow are expected to give way to warmer weather later this week.

A low of -9 is expected overnight, but that will feel closer to -12 with the wind chill. A high of -7 is in the forecast for Tuesday but the wind chill will make it feel like -18.

On Wednesday, Toronto will see sunshine and a high of -3 C and temperatures are expected to hover around the freezing mark on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

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