Winter storm hits GTA accompanied by bone-chilling temperatures
Piles of road salt are shown inside the public works yard on Eastern Avenue on Friday.
Chris Fox, CTV News Toronto
Published Saturday, January 19, 2019 6:50AM EST
Last Updated Sunday, January 20, 2019 2:43AM EST
It’s snowy and bitterly cold in Toronto, so if you have the option of just staying inside and keeping warm you may want to do that.
The city remains under a special weather statement and an extreme cold warning for what Environment Canada is calling a “major winter storm.”
The weather agency says that the snow will begin falling early this morning with a total accumulation of five to 10 centimetres near Lake Ontario and two to five centimetres north of Highway 7.
It gets worse, though.
The system is also being accompanied by frigid temperatures that could be among the coldest the city will feel throughout 2019.
Environment Canada is forecasting a high of – 12 C for today but it will feel closer to – 23 with the wind chill.
It won’t improve anytime soon either. A daytime high of – 15 C is in the forecast for Sunday and the weather agency says that it could feel as cold as – 35 with the wind chill overnight and into the early morning hours.
“It is a huge, huge storm system. It is going to bring severe thunderstorms to the gulf coasts states, ice and rain to the American midwest, snow to New England and we are just at the northern fringes of this system and that is why there are area across the lower lakes that are going to get significantly different amounts of snow,” CP24 Meteorologist Bill Coulter said on Saturday morning. “Toronto won’t get that much. Five to 10 cm. However there are pockets around the Niagara Region where there will be localized heavy bands of lake effect snow on top of this system’s snow so they might get 15 to 25 centimetres.”
Coulter said that the snowfall in Toronto will be fairly consistent throughout the day, topping out at about half a centimetre per hour this afternoon.
He said that while the total accumulation won’t be significant, blowing snow will be a concern into the overnight hours.
“The snow we are getting is going to be really light and even after it ends tomorrow morning we will have wind gusts of 50 km/h and that is going to create hazardous road conditions,” he said.
Police urge drivers to use caution
Police say that they have not seen any notable spike in collisions so far today but they are nonetheless encouraging drivers to slow down.
They also say that residents should consider whether their travel is “absolutely necessary” given the conditions.
“Even with decent tires it is pretty slippery out there, so you have to give yourself extra time and consider that being home a few minutes late is better than winding up in a ditch,” Sgt. Jason Waters told CP24 on Saturday afternoon.
By 5 p.m. Saturday, OPP Sgt. Kerry Schmidt said police had been called to more than 150 collisions on GTA-area highways.
Inside the City of Toronto, police spokesperson Katrina Arrogante said police received 90 calls for collisions between noon and 5 p.m., with 26 of them resulting in injuries.
"A few (people) have been transported to hospital but I don't have anyone in life-threatening condition right now," Arrogante said.
Police want motorists to completely clear the snow from all areas of their vehicle before getting moving and to keep a safety kit in their cars.
Hundreds of plows ready to be deployed
City officials have said that they will have 200 salt trucks, 300 sidewalk plows and 600 road plows at the ready to respond to today’s storm.
They also say that they will be deploying 10,000 to 12,000 tonnes of salt on city roads as a “first line of defence.” That salt will also be mixed with a beet juice additive that is used to improve its effectiveness in extreme cold.
“We have been tracking this for a number of days now and we spoke to our meteorologist earlier this morning and he is still saying about eight to 10 cm along the lakeshore so we are preparing for that,” Superintendent of Road Operations Mark Mills told CP24 on Saturday morning. “Right now we are actively patrolling the roads. We do see a little bit of flurry activity happening right now and as soon as that starts to stick we will be activating our snow plows.”
Mills said that there about 1,500 staff available to respond to today’s storm.
He said that plowing will begin on expressways once the total accumulation of snow reaches 2.5 centimetres, on main arterial roads once five centimetres of snow has landed and on local roads after eight centimetres.
“Please give yourself extra time today if you are commuting, be mindful of pedestrians and cyclists and when you see our equipment out there please give us the time and space necessary,” he said. “We are here to help and we will get those roads in good condition.”
Bill Bishop Airport warned passengers to check their flight's status as snowfall and temperatures may impact flights on Saturday.