TORONTO — A giant snowstorm blanketing Ontario grounded planes, totalled cars and shut down schools Friday, foreshadowing a wild weekend for Atlantic provinces that are next in the weather system’s path.
The storm barrelled its way eastward throughout the day, painting Ontario white from Windsor through to Ottawa.
Environment Canada said most regions will find themselves under 15 to 25 centimetres of snow by day’s end.
“The amounts do vary, but no one’s been left out of the snow on this one,” senior climatologist David Phillips said in a telephone interview. “I think it has followed through just as we thought.”
The burst of snow caused numerous accidents on the province’s roads.
Sgt. Dave Woodford of the Ontario Provincial Police said treacherous driving conditions shut down stretches of highway from Chatham to Brockville, adding no serious injuries were reported so far.
Much of the traffic-related trouble was centred in Toronto, he said, where more than 200 collisions were reported in a 12-hour period.
“We’re urging people to stay off the roads at this time so we can get the highways cleaned up,” he said.
The spike in accidents came as little surprise to Woodford, since Torontonians have grown accustomed to nearly bare streets during four consecutive winters without significant snowfall.
Despite contending with the largest storm since December 2008, however, most appeared to be taking the weather in stride.
Bike courier Brendan Bar was undaunted by the prospect of stashing his vehicle in snowbanks as he made his rounds, nor by the idea of wheeling himself down streets that had not yet been plowed.
“It’s not that bad,” he said as he wiped ice crystals from his beard. “We do it all year long so we’re used to it.”
For construction worker Eddie Sobo, the snowy weather added extra incentive to maintain business as usual.
“It’s not easy going but we have an office we have to keep salted up,” he said as he struggled to push a wheelbarrow full of road salt through the snow.
Passengers flying out of Toronto’s airport faced a raft of cancellations as Ontario’s wintry weather and a massive storm dumping nearly a half-metre of snow on parts of the U.S. combined to scuttle flights.
Schools and universities were also feeling the effect of the storm.
In Toronto and the regions of York, Durham and Simcoe, all public and Catholic schools remained open but buses were cancelled. Schools were closed in Peel, Halton and Hamilton-Wentworth Regions. In the Ottawa area, schools were open but buses cancelled.
Classes were cancelled at several universities and colleges, including York and Ryerson Universities in Toronto, McMaster University in Hamilton, Brock University in St. Catharines and the University of Guelph.
Social media was abuzz over the snowy conditions, though gripes about the slew of cancellations were greatly outnumbered by gleeful comments about the return of winter.
Twitter users in Toronto documented inconveniently large snow drifts, impromptu snow sculptures and even pedestrians navigating snowy sidewalks on skis.
Others took time to offer advice to their fellow snowbound citizens.
“Stay off the roads! Hot cocoa and pyjamas will have to suffice,” wrote one user.
Phillips said there are rewards in store for Ontarians who weather the storm. Friday’s snowy conditions are forecast to give way to sunny skies for the weekend, giving people a chance to take advantage of the new precipitation.
“We’re cursing it now, but we’ll bless it tomorrow when we have that sunshine,” Phillips said. “The beauty of it will be evident to us through Saturday and Sunday.”
Ontario’s storm is expected to pale in comparison to the one bearing down on the east coast, Phillips said. Quebec is expected to emerge comparatively unscathed, but parts of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland should brace for between 30 and 40 centimetres of snow and winds gusting up to 100 kilometres an hour, he said.
Atlantic Canadians can expect to start feeling the storm’s effects by Saturday.
The Canadian Press — Toronto
Environment Canada says the snowstorm currently pounding southern Ontario isn’t due to let up until the end of the day.
Senior climatologist David Phillips says the storm arrived a little later than expected, but has since delivered snowfalls that were right on target with the agency’s forecasts.
More than 15 centimetres has already fallen on Toronto with more on the way, making this the biggest storm the city has seen since 2008.
Anyone planning to start digging out now may want to wait, as Phillips says the snow is due to keep falling until well into this evening.
Police are asking motorists to drive for the conditions and be prepared for the unexpected.
Toronto’s Pearson International Airport has posted a travel advisory on its website, urging passengers to check flight information before heading for the airport.
Hundreds of flights have been cancelled not only due to the storm hitting Ontario, but because of poor weather conditions from Chicago to Quebec City. Flights to the U.S. northeast are also grounded because another storm of potentially historic proportions is threatening to dump up to 60 centimetres of snow from the New York City area to Boston and beyond.
Students got a snow day in parts of Ontario as schools were closed in Peel, Halton and Hamilton-Wentworth Regions. Schools were open in Toronto and the Ottawa area, but buses were cancelled.
Classes have been cancelled at several universities and colleges, including York and Ryerson Universities in Toronto, McMaster University in Hamilton, Brock University in St. Catharines and the University of Guelph. The University of Toronto said its Mississauga and Scarborough campuses would be closed but its main downtown campus would be open.
On the streets of Toronto, many people were trudging along sidewalks covered in snow and traffic moved slowly.
“It’s not easy going but we have an office we have to keep salted up,” said Eddie Sobo, a construction worker who was struggling to push a wheelbarrow full of road salt through the snow.
Sobo said he’s not averse to dealing with snow on the job and he needs to keep surfaces salted for office staff who “need to get out.”
Ontario’s storm, however, is expected to pale in comparison to what’s headed for the Maritimes.
Phillips says parts of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland should brace for between 30 and 40 centimetres of snow and high winds gusting up to 100 kilometres an hour starting Saturday.