Severe winter weather in Ontario and Quebec is still prompting some public officials to warn residents to “please stay home” as two storms continue to dump snow on the provinces.
In Toronto, the snow accumulation forced police to temporarily close two major highways Monday morning — the Don Valley Parkway and the Gardiner Expressway.
That came after thousands of drivers became stuck on a number of different roads around the region.
“If you can, please stay home and off the roadways. Today’s snowfall has caused lots of challenges for commuting,” the Toronto Police Service tweeted.
Toronto Public Health also cancelled also COVID-19 vaccine appointments for the day, citing the “significant snow fall.” That followed a decision by Ottawa Public Health on Sunday night to cancel all vaccine appointments for Monday, citing the coming storm.
Some Ontario regions, including Toronto, Hamilton and Ottawa, were placed under a “blizzard warning” on Monday morning as hazardous conditions with heavy snow and strong winds pummelled the region.
While the warning was lifted for Toronto, Peel, York, Durham, Halton and Hamilton regions around 11:30 a.m., the blizzard warning stayed in place for another hour in Ottawa before also being lifted.
Blizzard warnings are issued when “widespread reduced visibilities of 400 metres or less” are projected to last at least four hours, according to Environment Canada. Wind gusts of up to 60 km/h were also reported, blowing snow through the air.
By the time the snowfall started to ease, Environment Canada reported between 28 centimetres of snow in Waterloo to more than 50 cm in Whitby. Toronto was reported to have received 37 to 46 cm in some areas.
“We knew this storm was going to be such a big deal and boy, was it ever,” said Anthony Farnell, chief meteorologist for Global News, on Monday morning from the snowed-in streets of Toronto.
“This is going to be a snow storm I think we’re all going to remember for a long time.”
Most school boards in Montreal cancelled classes on Monday due to the storm.
The greater Montreal region as well as Quebec’s Laurentian region had expected to see up to 35 cm of snowfall from the storm, though the worst of the blizzard conditions were expected to be over by about lunchtime for the Toronto area, as well as in Ottawa and in Gatineau, Que.
In the meantime, however, Environment Canada has warned that travel “is expected to be extremely hazardous due to widespread poor visibility.”
“Heavy snowfall accumulation may cause tree branches to break. Travel is expected to be very difficult or impossible due to near-zero visibility,” the weather agency wrote in multiple blizzard warnings.
“If you become stranded in a vehicle do not leave. The vehicle offers a form of protection from the cold. A single person walking through the snow is harder to find than a stranded car or truck.”
The Ontario Provincial Police’s West Region division offered similar advice.
“If you don’t have to go out today, please do me a favour: please stay at home,” said acting Sgt. Ed Sanchuk in a video posted on Twitter.
“If you are heading out, please reduce your speed, please make sure you’re aware of your surroundings at all times, and slow down.”
Police also advised anyone whose vehicle becomes trapped in snow to stay in their vehicle, and to make sure the exhaust pipe remains clear in order to prevent accidental carbon monoxide poisoning.
The severe weather is a result of what Environment Canada described as a low-pressure system around the Great Lakes that began dumping snow on parts of Ontario starting Sunday night, while a storm brewing in the United States also began making its way up to southern Quebec.
The winter storms, the first major weather events of the year, have forced school boards in the provinces to revisit its plans for in-person learning at schools for the day.
In Ontario, several schools are closed. Some have switched to online learning while others have claimed Monday a complete “snow day” with no instruction. Students across the province were set to return to in-person learning Monday, after the province delayed the return due to COVID-19 spread.
In Quebec, among the schools boards that have announced school closures for Monday so far are the English Montreal School Board, the Lester B. Pearson School Board and the Marguerite Bourgeois School Board. Many private schools have also announced that they will be closed.
Monday was also set to be Quebec’s first day back to school for elementary and high school students across the province following the winter break.
Both storms are expected to continue throughout the day.
— with files from Gabby Rodrigues, Alessia Simona Marattax, Sean Boynton and The Canadian Press