Environment Canada warns of hazardous roads, heavy snow for parts of Ontario

OTTAWA — An early winter wallop of gusting wind and snowfall sent vehicles careening off highways and into each other in parts of Ontario on Saturday afternoon, while Environment Canada issued snow squall warnings for large swaths of the province.

The Ontario Provincial Police's highway safety division urged drivers to avoid travel due to hazardous roads, poor visibility and a thick blanket of snow in several regions across southern Ontario.

"We've been inundated with vehicles in the ditch and motor vehicle collisions and we just want to allow time for the plows to clear our roads," Sgt. Vince Idzenga of the OPP's Highway Safety Division said in a video shared on its Twitter account.

Multiple OPP videos included images of snow-covered roads in the Niagara Region, as well as deteriorating conditions on the QEW in St. Catharines, Ont.

Environment Canada issued several snow squall warnings over severe weather that was expected to persist through the weekend.

Niagara Region bore the brunt early Saturday afternoon as the squall that slammed into Buffalo, N.Y., pushed into the northern part of the area, said Brad Rousseau, a meteorologist with the federal agency's Ontario storm prediction centre.

He described very localized but intense snowfalls that could inundate one region but leave its neighbour relatively unscathed.

"Essentially imagine just a stream coming from a firehose, a very directed stream. That's how narrow it is," said Rousseau.

He said Niagara could expect 25 to 50 centimetres of snow in some areas, with 30 cm already recorded in Welland by mid-afternoon Saturday.

He described treacherous travel and near-whiteout conditions along much of Highway 401, especially between Cobourg and Belleville; Gananoque and Morrisburg; and the QEW through Niagara. He expected the squalls to clear out through the evening and early morning.

"It is an early winter event but as we get into mid-to-late November, we're fair game for big snowfalls," he said.

Environment Canada said snow squalls can shift conditions from clear skies to heavy snow within just a few kilometres. It advised drivers to expect deteriorating road conditions and to carry an emergency kit and mobile phone if travel was unavoidable.

Rousseau said snow squalls had also emerged east of Georgian Bay and were expected to shift southward and east of Lake Huron through the evening as a cold front comes through.

"Lakes are still relatively mild compared to what they would be like in mid-to-late winter. And it's that time of year where we get that temperature differential between that cold air aloft moving in and the lake temperature," said Rousseau.

Environment Canada has forecast 50 to 80 centimetres of snow in Owen Sound by late Sunday, and 10 to 20 centimetres in Parry Sound/Muskoka.

The agency also warned of reduced visibility in the Lake Nipissing communities of North Bay and West Nipissing, where 25 to 50 centimetres of snow were expected by Sunday morning.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 19, 2022.

The Canadian Press