Winter storm brings traffic nightmares to central, eastern Canada

A winter wallop blew through central and eastern Canada over the weekend, bringing heavy snowfall amounts, up to 30 centimetres in some areas, along with gusty winds and bitter wind chills.

Southwestern Ontario saw the first effects of the storm Friday night, getting up to 20 centimetres of snow by Saturday night, and even up to 30 centimetres in regions around the western end of Lake Ontario and Lake Erie, due to strong bands of snow blowing off of the water. The storm crossed into central and eastern Ontario later in the day, dumping up to 25 centimetres of snow over those regions by Sunday morning. Strong, gusting winds with the storm kicked up significant blowing snow across the entire area, creating whiteouts and hazardous driving conditions.

[ Related: Snowstorm causes traffic chaos in southern Ontario ]

Road conditions in the province grew steadily worse throughout the day on Saturday, and this caused traffic chaos in the Greater Toronto Area. The OPP's GTA Traffic Twitter account reported 525 calls for service and over 2,100 calls into their communications centre just for Saturday alone. Even more were reported overnight, and through Sunday as well.

More weather warnings and watches were in effect for Ontario on Sunday, even after the storm has passed, due to snow squalls blowing off of Lake Huron. Bands of snow spread over an area stretching from Kincardine to Grand Bend and southwest to Stratford and London, and even reaching the GTA at times, adding another 10-15 centimetres of snow to what had already fallen from the storm.

Like eastern Ontario, southern Quebec saw up to 25 centimetres of snow by Sunday morning from the storm, with gusting winds spreading blowing snow across the area.

[ Related: Storm blasting Maritime provinces with heavy snow, high winds ]

The Maritimes felt the brunt of the storm on Sunday. New Brunswick and PEI had between 15 and 30 centimetres of snow on the ground by the end of the day, with the highest amounts, up to 45 centimetres, in central New Brunswick. Most communities in Nova Scotia saw up to 20 centimetres of snow, with some getting a small amount of rain in the afternoon. However, some locations like the Canadian Forces base in Shearwater and the city of Sydney, N.S. reported significantly more rain due to their proximity to the coast.

In Newfoundland, the storm pressed over the island Sunday afternoon and evening, spreading heavy snow and blowing snow. Some snowfall from the storm still persists in the northwestern part of the island today, however forecasters are already turning their attention to the next storm system expected to swing through the area, which is due on Wednesday.

There are some delays to the school-day in New Brunswick and PEI this morning, however several school boards are closed today in Nova Scotia. In Newfoundland, all school systems are either delayed or are closed this morning, due to weather and road conditions, with updates due at 10:30 a.m. EST. Transportation ministries from Ontario to Newfoundland are reporting a mix of snow-covered, partially-covered and bare roads today, so anyone venturing out should check road conditions before leaving and be cautious while driving.

[ More Geekquinox: Cassini maps Saturn’s moon Titan with lakes, seas, mountains ]

With all the snowy, and in some places dangerously-cold, weather spreading across North America so far this season, it's quite the switch from the downright balmy winters we've had over the past two years (comparatively speaking). So, what's going on?

A man takes a walk with his dog during a snowstorm in Quebec City, December 15, 2013. Between 15 and 30cm of snow are expected to fall on the different regions of eastern Canada today according to ... more 
A man takes a walk with his dog during a snowstorm in Quebec City, December 15, 2013. Between 15 and 30cm of snow are expected to fall on the different regions of eastern Canada today according to Environment Canada. REUTERS/Mathieu Belanger (CANADA - Tags: ENVIRONMENT SOCIETY ANIMALS) less 
1 / 30
Reuters | Photo By MATHIEU BELANGER / Reuters
Mon, 16 Dec, 2013 2:08 AM EST
The reason for the chilly season has to do with the large-scale weather-makers of our planet. In this case, the El Niño-La Niña pattern in the equatorial Pacific Ocean was giving us drier, more mild conditions (in general) over the past two years, while the jet stream was fairly calm, keeping most of the cold Arctic air far to the north. This year, it's the reverse. The pattern in the equatorial Pacific has settled down, so our weather patterns are back to something a bit more normal for late fall, while the jet stream is regularly dipping far to the south, dragging extremely cold conditions along with it. So, we're getting a fairly typical Canadian winter so far (although it's not Dec. 22 yet, we are in meteorological winter).

(Photo courtesy: The Canadian Press)

Geek out with the latest in science and weather.
Follow @ygeekquinox on Twitter!