A snow squall warning for Toronto ended late Thursday afternoon, but police are still reminding motorists to exercise caution as the long-delayed winter weather hit the province with a vengeance.

Earlier in the day, Environment Canada issued a special weather statement for the Greater Toronto Area, with residents warned to prepare for snow squalls, gusty winds and reduced visibility.

Toronto was not alone in the warning, with the concern being echoed as far away as Hamilton, Niagara and Windsor.

Barrie, Kingston and Peterborough was also warned about the snow band being pushed eastward toward Ottawa by winds blowing up to 60 kilometres per hour.

Environment Canada said the squalls were expected to continue into the evening, raising concerns about "quick bursts of snow of about 2 to 4 cm and blowing snow which will produce low visibility of less than one kilometre."

Earlier the snowy, blustery conditions caused havoc on roads and highways, leading to a number of collisions across the Toronto area.

Hundreds of collisions were reported on Toronto-area highways, including a multiple-vehicle crash on the Queen Elizabeth Way near Burlington and another that closed Highway 403 near Hamilton after a tractor-trailer crashed into a bridge overpass.

And the province's Special Investigations Unit is probing two deaths on Highway 402 on Thursday following a 25-vehicle pileup that included a police cruiser and two fire trucks.

Ontario Provincial Police said they have been receiving reports of collisions and accidents "non-stop" through the afternoon as snow bursts and harsh winds make driving conditions treacherous.

Motorists have been advised to use caution and expect poor driving conditions as they are expected to improve rapidly after the snow bands passed.

Still the OPP issued a warning to motorists to exercise "caution" over the next 24 hours.

"Motorists are being reminded that conditions can change within seconds and they need to at all times be prepared for the unexpected," OPP's Central Region Traffic and Marine Manager Insp. Dom Beckett said in a release.

Beckett issued a number of tips to motorists travelling over the next 24 hours:

  • Slow down
  • Leave more space between vehicles
  • Drive as if your life depends on it because it does
  • Be ready for rapidly changing conditions
  • Get your vehicle ready
  • Know where you are
  • Monitor road and weather conditions

The OPP is also ramping up its enforcement on the highways after the number of people killed in accidents since January 1 has more than doubled to 17 from eight for the same time last year.

Meanwhile, York Regional Police is also warning drivers not to leave their vehicles unattended while warming them up. This comes after York police have investigated five stolen vehicles in the City of Vaughan since the start of the year.

Officers will be canvassing the Rutherford Road and Weston Road area of Vaughan on Friday morning to remind residents of the risk of leaving their vehicles running.