Drivers asked to pack their patience as snowfall warning issued for London, Ont. region


A snowfall warning was issued for the London and Middlesex region Wednesday afternoon, with Environment Canada calling for total snowfall accumulations of up to 20 centimetres or more by Thursday night.

The snowfall warning replaces a winter storm warning that was first issued by the national weather service around 6 a.m. Snowfall warnings are also in place for much of southwestern Ontario, advising that snowfall rates may reach up to two centimetres per hour at times.

Read more: School closures, bus cancellations hit London, Ont. region as winter storm approaches

Steven Flisfeder, a warning preparedness meteorologist with Environment Canada, says local residents should expect the snowfall to continue through Wednesday night before easing slightly overnight into Thursday.

The wintry weather led to school closures and bus cancellations in the region on Wednesday.

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“Through the early hours of Thursday morning, there’s going to be some smaller snowflakes, but there’s going to be increased winds, so blowing snow is going to cause some visibility issues on the roads,” he said.

According to the snowfall warning, snow is expected to persist through Thursday evening, with the heaviest snow on Thursday expected for regions closer to Lake Erie, however there remains uncertainty regarding snowfall amounts.

How much snow there will be Thursday depends on the movement of the low pressure system tracking across southern Ontario and parts of the United States, Flisfeder said.

“It’s (a) very difficult situation with that northern edge really just grazing right across the area,” he said.

“We do still expect accumulations of 15 to 20 centimetres at least, and then depending on how far north that northern edge of the snow line reaches, you could be looking at another five centimetres with the snow tomorrow.”

Those looking for some relief from the frigid weather will have to wait a bit longer, with colder than normal temperatures expected until at least the third week of February, maybe longer, Flisfeder said.

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John Parsons, division manager of roadside operations with the city, said in an interview early Wednesday afternoon that salt trucks had been out on London’s main streets since the morning, and that it was expected the entire fleet would be out on the roads by the evening.

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Deployment of roadside operations teams is based on accumulation and anticipated accumulation, as designated by the province, with the heaviest used routes, like Highbury Avenue and Fanshawe Park Road, considered highest priority, or Class 1, and cleared when there is under five centimetres of snow.

Roadways like Dundas, Oxford, Southdale and Wharncliffe are considered Class 2 routes and cleared when there is five centimetres, while local streets are considered the lowest priority, or Class 5, and cleared when there is 10 centimetres of accumulation, within 24 hours after snowfall ends.

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“We were already out as early as (Wednesday) morning on our main roads and bus routes, salting them … and we’ll continue with that throughout the overnight hours and into the morning,” Parsons said.

All of the city’s sidewalk plows have been operating since early Wednesday morning, Parsons said, adding that contracted units will be deployed later in the day once accumulation gets heavier.

“We have 55 sidewalk plows that will be deployed this evening. We have our 28 road sanders and salters — those units also have a front plow on them so they can be considered a plow as well. In addition to that, we have 72 road plows,” Parsons said. All will be out on the roads overnight.

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“It’s also important to know that we have a ban on overnight parking, so that’ll help us get through the city and through our local streets a little bit quicker. So we hope everybody observes that,” he continued.

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Those venturing outside of the city are also being urged to drive according to the conditions.

“What we’ve been finding is people are still driving like it’s 90 F (32 C) outside, like it’s a nice, hot, sunny day,” said OPP Acting Sgt. Ed Sanchuk.

“We’ve always told people to invest in winter tires, but winter tires are only as good as a driver behind the wheel. … (Just reduce) your speed and drive according to road and weather conditions. A lot of times, we have snow on top of the roadway, but what people don’t realize is that there may be a layer of ice underneath that snow, so it makes for some pretty tricky driving.”

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Sanchuck said OPP officers across West Region, which includes all of southwestern Ontario, had already dealt with numerous accidents on the roads by the early afternoon.

“If you can stay home, stay home. But if you have to travel, make sure that your entire vehicle’s cleaned off,” he said.

“Make sure your entire headlight system’s on so you’re visible to the motoring public. But more importantly, please reduce your speed and drive according to the road and weather conditions.”

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