Motorists are bracing themselves for what’s expected to be a wet and wintry commute as the first bout of snowfall is forecast to arrive in the Greater Toronto Area tonight.

Environment Canada issued a winter weather travel advisory on Wednesday for a large swath of southern Ontario ahead of snow flurries caused by a late-day dip in temperature.

The weather agency is predicting a high of 9 C in Toronto that will fall to around 2 C by the afternoon and drop further to -10 C overnight. When the wind chill is factored in, Thursday night will feel more like -18.

As a result, an extreme cold weather alert is in effect for Toronto until further notice. During this time, the city’s acting medical officer of health advises residents to stay warm by dressing in layers and avoiding outdoor activities.

The temperature drop will cause light, scattered rain showers to change into flurries just in time for the evening commute – between 6:30 p.m. and 9 p.m.

Ontario Provincial Police Sgt. Kerry Schmidt said the first snowfall often brings a “rash of crashes” along with it, which requires drivers to be “attentive, alert, and aware of their surroundings.”

“Usually it is single vehicle spin outs, drivers taking off ramps and on ramps too fast. They are hitting other vehicles in front of them because they are not giving them proper following distance,” Schmidt said Thursday morning.

“Road conditions can change very quickly with snow and blowing snow, ice and freezing rain. You never know what is coming up.”

While Toronto is likely to see a couple centimetres of snow, some areas, such as Barrie and Innisfil, could see snow squalls with accumulations up to 15 centimetres.

Schmidt encouraged drivers to outfit their vehicles with winter tires if they haven’t already but acknowledged that safe driving habits are paramount while driving during snowfall.

“You need to drive to these conditions. If you see traffic up ahead, if you see a bit of a slowdown, get on the brakes quickly, drive accordingly and be prepared to stop. Put on your four-way flashing lights to warn other motorists coming from behind you,” he said.

“We need to share the road and try to communicate with people coming up from the rear because if they’re not paying attention they can cause a very significant collision and we don’t want to see that.”

In terms of city preparedness, salt trucks covered hills and bridges late Wednesday night to apply the first layer of brine for the season.

A city spokesperson said crews will be on standby to reapply if road conditions worsen through the evening.

On Friday, a 30 per cent change of flurries remains with a high of -1 C and a nighttime low of -9 C. Conditions are slowly expected to warm up through the weekend with a high of 1 C on Saturday and 5 C on Sunday.

A taste of what’s to come?

Tonight’s blast of wintry weather may be a precursor to a snowy season, according to AccuWeather.

The U.S.-based weather forecasting service told CTV News Channel back in October that central Canada will see heavier snowfall this season, with most of the snow expected to fall between late December and February.

“We are expecting anywhere from 10 to 50 per cent higher-than-normal snowfall across a good part of Ontario, especially central-southern Ontario, right up to southern Quebec,” Brett Anderson, a senior meteorologist at AccuWeather, told CTV News Channel at the time.

The agency went as far as predicting “significant snowstorms” from Windsor through Toronto later this season.

But one city official says Toronto is ready for the season.

“We have an arsenal of 1,100 snow plows and salters and $90 million set aside to address snow for the 2017-18 winter season,” said Jaye Robinson, the chair of public works and infrastructure with the City of Toronto.