Cold weather alert, snow storm start off 2008
Although the snowfall warning for southern Ontario ended early Tuesday afternoon, Environment Canada's promise of a slick start to the new year Tuesday came through.
"Snow will gradually taper off this afternoon over most of southern Ontario," the government agency said on its website. "However the improvement is not expected to reach eastern Ontario until tonight."
Forecasters predicted about five to 10 centimetres of snow for Toronto and about 15 centimetres in the GTA. Areas near eastern Lake Ontario could see an accumulation of up to 20 centimetres.
There were several delays at Pearson International Airport. Officials reported as many as 100 cancellations and delays Tuesday morning.
The snow also caused traffic chaos on local roads as the Ontario Provincial Police reported more than 200 accidents since the snow began falling around midnight. More than half of those accidents were single-vehicle collisions.
Toronto's road crews were well prepared Monday night for the storm. As soon as the snow began to fall, crews dispatched 200 salters, 600 road plows and 300 sidewalk plows.
"We're working on the side streets now," said Myles Currie, director of the city's transportation services. "It generally takes 18 to 20 hours to complete those. By two or 3 a.m. we should have all the side streets plowed."
Nonetheless, OPP advised motorists to stay off the roads and enjoy the statutory holiday at home instead.
Cold weather alert
Forecasters predict the temperatures will dip well below the freezing mark Tuesday prompting the city to issue its first extreme cold weather alert of the year.
Temperatures are expected to dip to -15C without the wind chill.
In preparation, the city has opened an additional 70 emergency spaces at local hostels and shelters for the homeless. There will also be more van patrols on the streets tonight, looking to help homeless people looking for a way out of the cold.
"We'll give them emergency transportation to a shelter if they want it," said Brad Ross, with the city of Toronto.
Some people living on the streets don't want to take advantage of the offer. They say they won't go to a shelter no matter how cold it gets.
"It's not safe," said a woman named Isabel, who sat perched on top of a grate on Richmond Street, wrapped in tarp to keep the heat in.
She told CTV Toronto she plans on staying put for the night.
The bone-chilling temperatures are expected to last until Thursday.
What's open and closed
For those who insist on venturing out in the storm, here's a list of what is closed on New Year's Day:
- Government offices
- Canada Post
- Grocery stores, though some convenience stores and pharmacies are open
- Most shopping centres though the Eaton Centre, Vaughan Mills and the Pacific Mall are open
TTC operates on a Sunday schedule and GO Transit on a holiday schedule
With reports from CTV Toronto's Janice Golding and John Musselman