80-vehicle pileup blocks Toronto area’s Highway 401 during snow squalls

The scene on westbound 401, east of Oshawa, Friday afternoon. The Canadian Press/Doug Ives
Heavy lake-effect snow squalls swept into the Greater Toronto Area yesterday afternoon, reducing visibility and turning roads into a slippery mess, which ultimately resulted in a massive pileup of as many as 80 vehicles on major highway 401, east of Oshawa, Ont.

"It just never ends. We stopped counting at 70 cars," said Filippo Fazzino, who witnessed the pileup, according to CBC News.

[ Related: 80-vehicle pileup closes Highway 401 near Oshawa ]

Five people were taken to hospital, two with serious injuries, however, according to The Canadian Press, OPP spokeswoman Constable Linda Wolf said that there were no life-threatening injuries.

Eastbound lanes of the 401 were reopened as of about 10:30 p.m. last night, and westbound lanes were finally cleared around midnight. Although weather most certainly contributed to the crash, with the number of vehicles involved, the investigation into the exact cause will take some time.

Highway 401 pileup

The snow squalls were caused by a passing Alberta Clipper storm — a fast-moving weather system, similar to a Colorado Low, but originating over the Canadian Rockies. Southerly winds ahead of the system blew across the lake, generating the same kind of lake-effect snow more often seen on the U.S. side of the lake.

The squalls dumped between three and five centimetres of snow from east of Hamilton to east of Oshawa, with Toronto city centre receiving the least amount (at least according to Environment Canada radar), and highest amounts fell in York-Durham region, where a snow squall warning was in effect starting yesterday morning.

[ Related: What causes lake effect snow? ]

With the Alberta Clipper having done its worst to southern Ontario, it should be throwing a few departing snow flurries our way as it continues to zip along to the east, leaving behind more mild temperatures in its wake.

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