‘Hazardous’ travel conditions, flash freeze expected: The latest on the winter storm headed for the GTA
Environment Canada issued a winter storm warning for the greater Toronto area on Thursday, with the worst weather expected on Friday and Saturday.
The wintry mix is hit during the busy holiday travel season leading up to Christmas.
Toronto’s prognosis calls for:
- A possible shock freeze on Friday morning.
- Five to six inches of snow by Saturday morning.
- Strong winds gusting up to 90 km/h developing Friday morning and lasting through Saturday.
- Wind chill readings in the minus 20 range developing on Friday and set to continue into the weekend.
The federal weather agency is urging people to avoid “nonessential” travel during the storm and says the potential flash freezes Friday morning could make roads and sidewalks icy and treacherous.
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According to Environment Canada, snow will start Friday morning and turn to flurries on Saturday morning.
Toronto can expect rain or snow early Thursday evening, continuing as rain in many areas Thursday evening. “Rapidly falling temperatures” could lead to flash frosts and be accompanied by strong winds, heavy snowfall and “widespread blowing snow,” says the weather agency.
“Visibility is at times suddenly reduced to near zero during heavy snowfall and blowing snow. If visibility is reduced while driving, slow down, check your taillights and stop.”
City prepares to salt streets
The city of Toronto, meanwhile, says it is sending crews and equipment to high-priority areas so they can respond if necessary.
Salting starts as soon as the snow starts to stick to the ground. Plowing begins when the snow reaches:
- Two centimeters on sidewalks and separate cycle paths.
- 2.5 centimeters on freeways.
- Two inches on major thoroughfares, thoroughfares and roads with hills.
- Eight centimeters in residential streets.
The city says it will also open three warming centers for people affected by homelessness Thursday night:
- Scarborough Civic Centre, 150 Borough Dr. , opens at 7 p.m
- Metro Hall, 55 John St., opens at 7 p.m
- The Mitchell Field Community Center, 89 Church Ave., opens at 8 p.m
According to the city, forest crews are preparing to respond if strong winds break branches or down trees. Priority is given to threats to public safety or property and roads that need to be cleared. Local residents can call 311 to report fallen branches and trees.
Toronto Water crews are also on standby to repair water mains and offer assistance when local areas are flooded.
The city is advising residents to avoid travel until conditions improve. If you have to travel on Friday morning, expect poor visibility and icy and slippery conditions. Drivers should slow down, follow at a safe distance, watch out for pedestrians and cyclists, and remain vigilant.
All residents are also urged to keep a safe distance from snow removal equipment and crews so they can get the job done.
Several boards for the closure of schools
Several school boards in the greater Toronto area say they will close their schools on Friday due to the approaching winter storm.
The Toronto District School Board, Toronto Catholic District School Board, Peel District School Board, York Region District School Board, York Catholic District School Board and Durham District School Board all say they will close their schools because of the weather .
The TDSB said in a statement that it made the decision with the TCDSB to close schools, administration buildings and campuses to students and staff.
Other school boards will close their schools on Friday, not because of the weather but because the closures were scheduled according to their calendars. These bodies include the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board and the Halton District School Board.
The TDSB said childcare facilities and pre- and after-school programs at its schools will also be closed and all permits for the day will be cancelled.
All extracurricular face-to-face and evening courses have also been canceled on Friday. These courses include International Languages Elementary and African Heritage, Learn4Life Community Programs and ESL for adults.
TTC implements severe weather plan
For its part, the TTC says it is enacting its severe weather plan to ensure it can continue to provide essential transit services.
The transport company says it does the following:
- If necessary, additional staff and vehicles are available.
- Line 3 Scarborough SRT will be operational on Friday morning alongside the bus service. If necessary, the line will be shut down and replaced by buses.
- 41 bus stops in areas that are difficult for buses to navigate in snow and ice will be taken out of service overnight. The full list can be found here.
- Anti-icing and snow clearance protocols will be implemented in all bus, tram and metro areas.
- Metro trains are stored in tunnels along main lines to avoid problems exiting stations.
- The tram catenary network and vehicles have been treated with an anti-icing application. Should problems arise at 512 St Clair, replacement buses will be available.
- Tow trucks from private contractors are on hand to assist trapped vehicles, and TTC’s snow removal equipment is deployed when needed.
- The TTC will remain in regular contact with the city to ensure crews are aware of issues on transit routes.
How should you prepare?
Residents are asked to create an emergency plan and prepare a kit with drinking water, food, medicine, first aid supplies and a flashlight, the Federal Weather Bureau says.
Environment Canada says residents should continue to check local forecasts.