Thousands of drivers out along Toronto-area highways got stuck in snow Monday morning as a historic winter storm blasted southern Ontario.
OPP Sgt. Kerry Schmidt urged people to “drive to the conditions,” even after the roads have been salted and plowed.
Schmidt said on Highway 400 near Highway 401, a Ministry of Transportation vehicle which had stopped to assist at the scene of a collision was hit by another vehicle.
Schmidt urged those on the road to use caution when they see emergency vehicles.
“Slow down and take it easy,” he said in a video posted to Twitter.
Earlier on Monday, Schmidt said drivers got stuck in a standstill along Highway 401 eastbound around Keele Street.
He urged drivers to stay at home.
“The biggest problem right now is the plows are stuck in this as well,” Schmidt said. “They can’t clear the highways, and you’re not going anywhere … if you’re stuck in traffic, you might be here a while.”
“Please, if you haven’t left the driveway, stay home,” Schmidt said.
Over along the Highway 401 eastbound ramp to Highway 400, transport trucks got stuck for hours and drivers tried to shovel their trucks out. The ramp was blocked, Schmidt said.
Schmidt posted another video on Twitter shortly before 4 p.m. showing vehicles still stuck in the area.
Heavy tows being used to free trucks.
People in one vehicle told Schmidt that they were stuck on the highway for eight hours.
Meanwhile, Toronto police temporarily shut down the Gardiner Expressway and the Don Valley Parkway.
“This is to help move any existing vehicles that are stuck and allow snow plows to clear the routes,” police said in a tweet issued shortly after 10 a.m.
Just before the closure was announced, the northbound Don Valley Parkway was at a standstill due to a crash near Don Mills earlier in the morning. Motorists there reported being stuck in traffic for well over an hour.
Around 12:30 p.m., the Gardiner was reopened, followed by the southbound DVP lanes around an hour later.
Shortly before 2:50 p.m., police said both the Gardiner and DVP were fully reopened.
Environment Canada put Toronto, Peel, York, Durham, Halton, Hamilton, and Niagara under a “blizzard” warning. That warning has since been lifted.
Snow accumulation of up to 60 cm was expected, Environment Canada said.
Wind gusts of up to 60 km/h were expected to cause blowing snow, resulting in widespread near-zero visibility, the weather agency continued.
Toronto Police Chief James Ramer said the city is facing a “serious” weather event.
“Toronto Police & other first responders are doing their best to keep our city safe. You can help by staying off the roads unless absolutely necessary & only using 911 in an emergency, an imminent threat to life/property,” Ramer said.
Dozens of TTC streetcars and buses across the city were also out of service due to the significant snowfall.
Global News Meteorologist Ross Hull said by Monday afternoon Toronto was “out of the heaviest snow.”
However, Hull said with temperatures dropping Monday night and gusty winds, the snow “will take on more of a powdery form and blow around easier bringing a blowing snow threat – especially in exposed areas.”
He said the dropping temperature could also cause slushy snow to turn to ice and “make it more difficult for any vehicles stuck in the snow to get out.”
By 2 p.m., downtown Toronto had seen a total of 36 cm of snow.
— With files from Ryan Rocca and Hannah Jackson