Winter storm disrupts travel in Toronto as forecasts suggest six to eight inches of snow
A winter storm hit Toronto on Wednesday, bringing heavy snow to the city, slowing travel and urging people to stay home Thursday.
Some flights were delayed or canceled at Pearson International Airport, TTC made service changes, GO Transit will adjust its train service Thursday, and drivers have been urged to slow down on city streets and major freeways in and around the Greater Toronto Area .
The storm brought mixed precipitation but mostly snow, with between 15 and 20 centimeters forecast. There was also the possibility of ice pellets and the threat of freezing rain.
Environment Canada said light snow is expected to increase Wednesday night. Where there were more ice pellets and freezing rain, less snow would accumulate, the Federal Weather Service said. There was also the possibility of light ice sticking to surfaces.
The storm is expected to ease into a patchy frigid drizzle by Thursday morning. But a “light wintry precipitation mix” may persist throughout Thursday, with possible spells of light snowfall.
“There can be a significant impact on the morning rush hour. Residents are encouraged to stay home where possible and consider using public transportation,” the city said in a news bulletin Wednesday night.
Poor visibility, slippery roads
The forecast also provided for wind gusts of 50 to 60 kilometers per hour in Toronto. Environment Canada said strong north-easterly winds are expected to cause snow blowing and reduced visibility in certain areas.
The snow should mix with ice pellets in the evening and could turn to freezing rain at times, Environment Canada had said.
Toronto police, meanwhile, urged drivers to take their time as the snow-covered roads were said to be slippery.
“Winter weather has started to blow into our area,” police said in a tweet. “Drivers please slow down and drive appropriately for weather conditions.”
Travelers have been urged to check flight status
Pearson officials urged travelers to check their flight status on their website or that of their airlines before leaving home.
“Delays are possible as our ground staff are working hard in these difficult conditions to ensure the safety of all passengers,” the airport said in a tweet.
Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport also urged travelers to inquire about their flights before departure.
TTC will close 41 bus stops and replace SRT with buses
The TTC said 41 of its bus stops were out of service as of 5 p.m. These stops are in hilly areas, which can cause buses to skid and hit in wintry conditions, the TTC said. The full list of these stops can be found here.
The transit agency closed the Scarborough RT at 7pm and replaced the service with shuttle buses between Kennedy and McCowan stations.
The TTC urged Toronto residents to pack their patience when planning a trip.
“Due to winter weather, customers may experience slower travel times. We are working to get you safely to your destination. If the snow continues, plan to leave your car at home and take the TTC,” the transit company said in a tweet.
The TTC also said private towing companies are on standby to free buses that get stuck in the snow.
OPP urges caution on highways
Ontario Provincial Police spokesman Sergeant Kerry Schmidt earlier Wednesday urged drivers to turn on their headlights, give themselves plenty of room and be aware of how quickly conditions can change.
GO warns of “significant service changes”
For its part, GO Transit said it is making significant service changes on Thursday.
GO urges customers to check this page for updates.
“Please give yourself extra time to get where you want to be. Please also remember to be careful on train and bus platforms, parking lots and structures, and inside buildings and tunnels as they can be slippery,” said GO Transit website.
City opens heat centers
The City of Toronto opened its four warm centers to the homeless. The city says the centers provide a safe, warm indoor space to rest with snacks, washrooms and referrals to emergency shelters. You are in:
Metro Hall, 55 John St.
Scarborough Administrative Centre, 150 Borough Dr.
Mitchell Field Community Center, 89 Church Ave.
Cecil Community Center, 58 Cecil St.
Toronto remained under a winter storm warning at 10:30 p.m. as snow continued to fall.
Surfaces become ‘icy, slippery and dangerous’
In an updated winter storm warning Wednesday night, Environment Canada had said people should “exercise caution” when walking or driving.
“Surfaces such as highways, roads, sidewalks and parking lots are becoming icy, slippery and dangerous,” Environment Canada said.
“If you have poor visibility while driving, slow down, watch for taillights, and stop.”
In other parts of the province, the weather is expected to get even worse.
Colette Kennedy, CBC meteorologist, said a freezing rain warning is in place from Hamilton to Niagara and back to Windsor.
The city says snow clearing will continue through the weekend
In a news bulletin Wednesday night, the city of Toronto said it would deploy crews and equipment as needed.
The city said its crews are expected to start salting once snow sticks to the ground and plowing will begin when snow reaches:
2.5 centimeters on freeways
5 centimeters on major thoroughfares, thoroughfares and roads with hills
8 centimeters in residential streets
For sidewalks and separate bike lanes, clearing should begin when the snow reaches two centimeters.
“Clearance work is expected to continue through the weekend as multiple clearance passes will be required to clear roads, sidewalks and bike lanes during and after the snowfall,” the city said.