Winter storm wallops Toronto, causes school closures, transportation delays on Tuesday
The winter storm in Toronto continues to impact road conditions and has resulted in a number of school closures and transportation delays on Tuesday.
The weather system, which is bringing a mix of snow, ice pellets and possibly freezing rain, will pound the region throughout the day.
A winter storm warning is in effect for Toronto with snow, at times heavy, mixed with ice pellets by the afternoon.
“The temperature is warming up. It’s warming up where we live on the surface, but it’s warming up faster up in the clouds and that means we’re going to get this transition around 1 or 2 p.m.,” Global News Chief Meteorologist Anthony Farnell said.
“Some places like Hamilton are already seeing ice pellets and that’s what is expected here. It’s going to last through the afternoon commute so the snowfall totals will be capped about 15 cm. Then we get some freezing rain, then rain, and then changing over to snow before tapering off.”
WATCH: Wild winter weather brings snow, wind and freezing rain to Southern Ontario
Environment Canada said the precipitation will be accompanied by strong easterly winds gusting near 70 km/h.
Total snowfall and ice pellet of 15 to 25 cm is possible by the time snow tapers to flurries on Wednesday.
Officials are advising people to postpone non-essential travel until conditions improve.
Snow day for most Toronto-area schools
Some school boards across the Greater Toronto Area declared a snow day for students even before the snow started falling early Tuesday.
The Toronto District School Board, the largest school board in Canada with 246,000 students in 582 schools, called its first snow day since 2011. Toronto Catholic District School Board closed all its schools, too.
“So it’s actually a rarity for the TDSB to do that but looking at today’s forecast, the combination of significant amounts of snow, ice pellets, freezing rain, heavy winds, we made the heavy decision to shut down the system,” TDSB spokesperson Ryan Bird said.
The TDSB was criticized on social media last month over its decision to keep schools open during several winter weather events.
“In the end, we always strive to keep schools open because we know that closing down the school system does impact thousands of families in Toronto, some of which have no other options when it comes to childcare,” Bird said.
“For example last week on the day where there were ice pellets in the forecast and it was a slow day on the roads, we still had about 170,000 students come to school. So that is a significant amount of students that are there still.”
Meanwhile, schools in York and Durham region remain open but bus transportation has been cancelled.
A number of college and university campuses across the GTA were also forced to close for the day due to the storm.
Most post-secondary institutions issued the cancellation advisory the day before in anticipation of the rough weather conditions.
WATCH: York, Durham region school boards remain open during storm. Catherine McDonald Reports.
WATCH: TTC buses in need of a tow as winter storm freezes commutes
The Toronto Transit Commission is warning commuters to expect delays throughout the day due to the snow accumulation and high winds, especially on bus and streetcar routes.
Officials at Toronto Pearson Airport have already reported a high number of flight cancellations on Tuesday.
As of noon, close to one third of all flight arrivals and departures have been cancelled due to the winter storm.
Passengers are strongly encouraged to check their flight status prior to arriving at the airport.
Snow clearing efforts and road conditions
Toronto city officials say they have been tracking the winter storm for several days and have snow clearing measures in place to deal with the changing conditions.
“Given the kind of storm we’re going to have, we have deployed all the resources. Every plow, every truck will be out there, every person,” Mayor John Tory said Tuesday.
“I hope if we have the cooperation of people who hopefully will act responsibly and safely, and not drive their cars when they don’t have to and frankly stay home. A lot of kids are staying home from school on this day so I just hope that everybody acts that way and we’ll get through this fine.”
WATCH: Fewer collisions than expected in Tuesday storm. Sean O’Shea reports.
Myles Currie, the city’s director of road operations, said during a briefing Tuesday morning that it could take up to 18 hours before the side streets are plowed.
“This event will last in the neighbourhood of 12 hours, so there’s a possibility that we won’t be getting to our local side streets, neighbourhood streets, until the end of the storm, which is probably going to be around midnight,” Currie said.
“Once we start plowing our side streets, it’s about an 18-hour operation. That takes us until Wednesday at 6 p.m. before we complete our rounds of plowing.”
Currie is urging motorists to refrain from parking on major corridors in order to allow for plows to complete clearing operations.
Toronto police are also reminding motorists to avoid blocking streetcar tracks on city streets.
During last week’s winter storm, city officials raised the issue that a number of vehicles were parked next to snow banks and not allowing streetcars to pass.
Police are reminding motorists to drive according to the changing road conditions throughout Tuesday.
A number of collisions have been reported in Durham Region as vehicles veered off the roadway.
There may be a significant impact on the afternoon rush hour commute Tuesday as the storm intensifies.
Authorities say visibility may be reduced at times and it is advised to maintain a safe distance between vehicles.
WATCH: Students, parents find creative ways to spend snow day in Toronto. Caryn Lieberman reports.
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