Windsor-Essex and Chatham-Kent under blizzard warning: The latest on the storm

A winter storm hitting Kingsville, Ont., with gusty winds blowing snow across a road. Windsor-Essex and Chatham-Kent are under a blizzard warning. (Stacey Janzer/CBC - image credit)
A winter storm hitting Kingsville, Ont., with gusty winds blowing snow across a road. Windsor-Essex and Chatham-Kent are under a blizzard warning. (Stacey Janzer/CBC - image credit)

The latest:

  • Windsor-Essex and Chatham-Kent are under a blizzard warning.

  • Chatham-Kent urging residents to take stranded drivers in for the night.

  • CAA South Central Ontario says its experiencing a high influx of calls.

  • Via Rail service experiencing "significant delay," according to timetable.

  • All flights heading in and out of Windsor International Airport have been cancelled.

  • Hwy. 401 closed between Tilbury and London, say OPP, due to collisions involving an unknown number of vehicles, with people being sent to hospital with injuries.

  • Sections of 402 closed between Sarnia and London, say OPP, due to "multiple collisions."

Windsor-Essex and Chatham-Kent are under blizzard warnings as a winter storm hits southwestern Ontario, shutting down highways and prompting warnings for residents to stay off the roads.

Chatham-Kent even pulled snow plows from the road due to the severity of snow.

"Near zero visibility due to blowing snow in outlying areas has resulted in snow plows being pulled from service temporarily," Ryan Brown, Chatham-Kent Public Works director, said in a press release. "We will continue to assess the situation."

The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) says that sections of Highways 401 and 402 are closed in all directions due to multiple collisions. The 401 is closed between Tilbury and Colonel Talbot Road in the London Area.

In a press release, the OPP said that of the collisions on the 401, one person has been sent to hospital with serious injuries and that "of the other individuals involved, only minor injuries have been reported". The OPP also say the 401 will remain closed for an undetermined amount of time.

The Chatham-Kent municipality said in a press release that there are stranded drivers currently sheltering in the Ridgetown and Tilbury arenas who need accommodations for the night.

"If you have room at your home to take in one or more individuals, please call 519-437-9356, 519-784-4184, or 519-809-0705 and we will match you with someone," the release said.

Road closures on major highways in southern Ontario

CAA South Central Ontario says its facing "an extremely high demand for service."

"Our network is working at full capacity while we prioritize emergency calls and members in unsafe situations," the company said in a media release.

The release said if CAA customers find themselves stranded on the road, they should call 911, turn on their hazard lights and attempt to safely pull over to the side of the road.

Via Rail service is experiencing a "significant delay" between Windsor and Toronto, according to the online timetable.

"We have protocols and procedures in place to prepare and deal with intense weather events in order to ensure minimal impact on our operations and our passengers," a spokesperson told CBC News in an emailed statement. "We are following this weather system closely and are currently experiencing some delays due to the weather conditions."

The statement continued by saying they are informing passengers of any updates and invite people to head to their online timetable for departure and arrival information.

All flights departing from and arriving at Windsor International Airport on Friday have been cancelled, according to the airport's website.

Chatham-Kent Fire tweeted there are whiteout conditions in the area, and are asking drivers to stay off the roads if possible.

Darrin Di Carlo/CBC
Darrin Di Carlo/CBC

Schools were closed to students on Friday.

Transit Windsor buses are running, but may be delayed.

ECCC had warned of the storm Friday and Saturday that would be bringing snow and icy conditions.

Wind chill values are expected to dip below –30 C.

Wind gusts of 90 to 100 km/h and approximately five to 15 centimetres of snow are expected, creating blizzard-like conditions.

"The worst of it is right now," said Steven Flisfeder, a warning preparedness meteorologist with Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) said Friday afternoon.

"Difficult road conditions are expected to continue throughout the afternoon, the evening and into the overnight as well. Saturday morning should start to see some improvement, but we're still expecting gusty winds. There's still a lot of snow that's falling, so visibilities could be reduced still locally tomorrow."

A flood watch is also in effect for the Township of Pelee and the islands within the western basin of Lake Erie, according to the Essex Region Conservation Authority. ECCC said strong winds are expected to cause waves as high as seven metres.

What's happening with the roads?

The City of Windsor said it will salt surfaces as needed, and encourages drivers to be patient behind any snowplows clearing roads.

"We're just gonna keep the main route safe and make sure that everything's moving," said Phong Nguy, manager of operations for Public Works at the City of Windsor. "If you don't have to go anywhere, please stay home and make sure that things are safe."

WATCH | Take a ride in a city snowplow: 

To find where snowplows have been recently active in Windsor, you can head to the Winter Control - Snowplow Activity page on the City's Open Data Catalogue. The city defines snowplow activity as a truck salting or plowing a road. The map is on a 30 minute delay, but it shows all activity over the previous four hours.

What's open and what's closed?

Community centres and arenas will be closed Saturday as part of their holiday break. Lanspeary will reopen on Monday, but every other facility will reopen on Tuesday.

The H4 day program will be open during regular hours on Saturday.

WestJet cancels flights out of B.C. and Ontario

WestJet said it's cancelling flights out of B.C. and Ontario due to the storms, ahead of the busy holiday weekend.

In a statement on Thursday night, the airline said the cancellations will affect 126 flights at five airports in B.C. and 140 flights at five airports in Ontario and Quebec.

WestJet said it made the decision because of "prolonged and extreme weather events" across Canada.

"We sincerely apologize for the continued disruption many have or will experience and appreciate your continued patience and understanding," Diederik Pen, WestJet's chief operations officer, said in the statement.

Should I travel for Christmas?

Environment Canada says travel is "hazardous and is not advised."

Flisfeder says conditions should improve by Sunday.

"Most areas should be OK [at that time]," said Flisfeder. "There will be some local concerns, particularly near the lake shores, but [it is] a safer bet if you can postpone [travel] until Monday. I know it's tough to delay these kinds of plans, but we want everyone to be safe."

The Essex County OPP has issued winter travel tips. It recommends anyone travelling:

  • Have winter tires.

  • Check the weather forecast before travelling.

  • Clean any ice and snow from all areas of your vehicle.

  • Turn off cruise control.

  • Drive according to the conditions.

  • Have an emergency kit handy.

"Be prepared for the unexpected," said Insp. Angela Ferguson, Essex County OPP detachment commander. "Give yourself some extra time if possible and remember, road safety is everyone's responsibility. We want everyone to get to their destination safely this holiday season."

Transit Windsor will be operating on Saturday, albeit on its Sunday schedule, except for Transway 1A and Route 518X.