Winter storm affects travel in Toronto as forecast calls for between 15 to 20 cm of snow

A person walks a bike through blowing snow in Toronto’s Beach neighbourhood Wednesday night. (Evan Mitsui/CBC - image credit)
A person walks a bike through blowing snow in Toronto’s Beach neighbourhood Wednesday night. (Evan Mitsui/CBC - image credit)

A winter storm hit Toronto on Wednesday, bringing heavy snow to the city, slowing travel and prompting calls for people to stay home on Thursday.

Some flights were delayed or cancelled at Pearson International Airport, the TTC made service changes, GO Transit will adjust its train service on Thursday, and drivers were urged to slow down on city streets and major highways in and around the Greater Toronto Area.

The storm brought mixed precipitation but mainly snow, with the forecast calling for between 15 and 20 centimetres. There was also the possibility of ice pellets and the risk of freezing rain.

Environment Canada said the light snow was expected to become heavier on Wednesday evening. Where there were more ice pellets and freezing rain, there would be less snow accumulation, the federal weather agency said. There was also the chance of light ice sticking to surfaces.

The storm is expected to taper off Thursday morning to patchy freezing drizzle. But a "light wintry mix of precipitation" may continue throughout Thursday, with possible periods of light snowfall.

"There may be a significant impact on morning rush hour. Residents are encouraged to stay home if possible and consider taking public transit," the city said in a news bulletin on Wednesday night.

Low visibility, slippery roads

The forecast also called for wind gusts of 50 to 60 kilometres per hour in Toronto. Environment Canada said strong northeasterly winds were expected to cause snow to blow and to cut visibility in certain areas.

The snow was expected to mix with ice pellets in the evening and could turn into freezing rain intermittently, Environment Canada had said.

Toronto police, meanwhile, told drivers to take their time because the roads, covered with snow, were slippery.

"Winter weather has started to blow into our region," police said in a tweet. "Drivers, please slow down and drive to the weather conditions."

Travellers told to check flight status

Officials at Pearson urged travellers to check their flight status on its website or that of their airlines before leaving home.

"Delays are possible as our ground crews work hard in these challenging conditions to ensure the safety of all passengers," the airport said in a tweet.

Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport also urged travellers to check before leaving for their flights.

TTC shuts down 41 bus stops, replaces SRT with buses

The TTC said 41 of its bus stops were out of service as of 5 p.m. These stops are in hilly areas that can cause buses to skid and get struck in wintry conditions, the TTC said. The full list of those stops can be found here.

The transit agency closed the Scarborough RT at 7 p.m. and replaced the service with shuttle buses between Kennedy and McCowan stations.

The TTC urged Torontonians to pack their patience if they are planning a trip.

"Due to winter weather, customers may experience slower travel times. We're working to get you to your destination safely. As the snow continues, plan on leaving your car at home and take the TTC," the transit agency said in a tweet.

The TTC also said private tow contractors were on standby to help free any buses that get stuck in the snow.

OPP urges caution on highways

Sgt. Kerry Schmidt, spokesperson for the Ontario Provincial Police, urged drivers earlier on Wednesday to turn on their headlights, give themselves lots of space and to be aware of how quickly conditions can change.

GO warns of 'significant service changes'

GO Transit, for its part, said it is making significant service changes" on Thursday.

GO is urging customers to check this page for updates.

"Please give yourself extra time to get to where you're going. Please also remember to be careful on the train and bus platforms, in parking lots and structures, and in buildings and tunnels as they may be slippery, GO Transit said on its website.

City opens warming centres

The City of Toronto opened its four warming centres for people experiencing homelessness. The city says the centres provide a safe, warm indoor space to rest with snacks, washroom facilities and referrals to emergency shelters. They are located at:

  • Metro Hall, 55 John St.

  • Scarborough Civic Centre, 150 Borough Dr.

  • Mitchell Field Community Centre, 89 Church Ave.

  • Cecil Community Centre, 58 Cecil St.

Submitted by the City of Toronto
Submitted by the City of Toronto

Toronto remained under a winter storm warning at 10:30 p.m. as snow continued to fall.

Surfaces will become 'icy, slippery and hazardous'

In an updated winter storm warning on Wednesday evening, Environment Canada had said people should take "extra care" when walking or driving.

"Surfaces such as highways, roads, walkways and parking lots will become icy, slippery and hazardous," Environment Canada said.

"If visibility is reduced while driving, slow down, watch for tail lights ahead and be prepared to stop."

The weather was expected to get even worse in other parts of the province.

Colette Kennedy, CBC meteorologist, said a freezing rain warning was in place from Hamilton through to Niagara and back to Windsor.

Michael Wilson/CBC
Michael Wilson/CBC

Snow clearing to continue into weekend, city says

In a news bulletin on Wednesday evening, the City of Toronto said it will deploy crews and equipment as required.

The city said its crews were expected to begin salting as soon as the snow starts to stick to the ground and plowing will begin when the snow reaches:

  • 2.5 centimetres on expressways

  • 5 centimetres on major roads, transit routes and streets with hills

  • 8 centimetres on residential streets

As for sidewalks and separated bike lanes, clearing was expected to begin when the snow reaches two centimetres.

"Clearing operations are expected to continue into the weekend as multiple passes of clearing will be required to clear roads, sidewalks and bike lanes during and after the snowfall," the city said.