Several hundred motorists had to be rescued in a region northwest of Toronto after blowing snow caused substantial drifts and white-out conditions.

More than 400 people in Dufferin County were rescued on Friday after wintry conditions reduced visibility on local roads and highways, according to Dufferin County EMS.

The stranded travellers spent the night in temporary shelters at the Dufferin Recreation Complex and the Honeywood Arena in Shelburne, Ont., a town north of Orangeville.

Dufferin County says most of the people have since left the shelters, though approximately 15 people remain at the Shelburne location.

Const. Paul Nancekivell told CTV Barrie that it's hoped the rescued motorists would be reunited with their vehicles by Saturday, but says the extreme winter conditions are slowing their efforts.

Environment Canada says strong southerly winds with gusts up to 60 km/h are expected to continue blowing snow over eastern Ontario, as temperatures are expected to drop between -25 C and -30 C in many areas overnight.

"Motorists are advised to exercise caution as visibilities in exposed areas may be near zero at times, resulting in hazardous winter driving conditions," the national weather agency said in a statement.

The treacherous driving conditions have closed a number of roads in the area:

  • County Roads 12 and 19 are closed
  • County Road 11, between County Roads 3 and 109 is closed
  • County Road 124, north of County Road 89 is closed
  • Highways 10 and 89 were closed, but have since been reopened

Police are asking residents to stay home while emergency crews work to clear the roads and remove abandoned vehicles.

"Let's let the people who know the job do it to the best of their abilities. And then when the word comes that it is okay to resume your normal life, you can do that," OPP Const. Peter Leon told CP24.

"We certainly don't want to see anybody go down a road that is not open and not plowed and get themselves in a situation where they may get stranded.”

With files from CTV Barrie and CP24