TORONTO – A snowstorm that forecasters warn could be the worst in more than four years has moved into Ontario and police are warning of treacherous driving conditions.
Environment Canada says the storm, which began bearing down on the province Thursday, will leave a large swath painted white by tonight.
The storm is also expected to hit parts of Quebec today before moving on to New Brunswick and Nova Scotia over the rest of the weekend, dumping up to 30 centimetres of snow as it goes.
Toronto residents can expect 15 to 25 centimetres, while regions as far west as London and as far east as Kingston may see upwards of 30 centimetres. Environment Canada is predicting up to 20 centimetres of snow for the Ottawa area before it finally tapers off in the early hours of Saturday morning.
Toronto’s Pearson International Airport has posted a travel advisory on its website, urging passengers to check flight information before heading for the airport. Many flights have been cancelled not only due to the storm hitting Ontario, but because of blizzard conditions in parts of the U.S.
Police are asking motorists to drive for the conditions and be prepared for the unexpected.
In Toronto and the regions of York, Durham and Simcoe, all public and Catholic schools are open but buses have been cancelled. Schools were closed in Peel, Halton and Hamilton-Wentworth Regions. In the Ottawa area, schools are open but buses cancelled.
Classes have been cancelled at several universities and colleges, including York and Ryerson Universities in Toronto, McMaster University in Hamilton, Brock University in St. Catharines and the University of Guelph. The University of Toronto said its Mississauga and Scarborough campuses would be closed but its main downtown campus would be open.
On the streets of Toronto, many people were trudging along sidewalks covered in snow and traffic moved slowly.
“It’s not easy going but we have an office we have to keep salted up,” said Eddie Sobo, a construction worker who was struggling to push a wheelbarrow full of road salt through the snow.
Sobo said he’s not averse to dealing with snow on the job and he needs to keep surfaces salted for office staff who “need to get out.”
Toronto hasn’t seen a snowfall exceeding 15 centimetres since Dec. 19, 2008, said Environment Canada senior climatologist David Phillips, adding the precipitation from the current system represents nearly half the total snowfall for all of last year.
“In the scheme of things it’s not a record, but in terms of what we’ve seen in the relatively near past, it is a big one,” Phillips said in a telephone interview.
Ontario residents will be contending with what Phillips described as a “one-day wonder” complete with winds gusting to at least 60 kilometres an hour. As they begin cleaning up, however, Canadians in provinces further east will be gearing up for their own encounter with the storm.
Chris Scott, director of meteorology at the Weather Network, said the storm is caused by a merger between a low pressure system tracking up the midwestern United States and a massive storm currently causing havoc along the eastern seaboard.
In the United States, a blizzard of potentially historic proportions threatened to strike the Northeast with a vengeance today, with up to 60 centimetres of snow forecast along the densely populated corridor from the New York City area to Boston and beyond.
Airlines have already cancelled more than 2,600 flights, with the disruptions certain to ripple across the United States and Canada.