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Major winter storm expected for Ontario ahead of Christmas, will impact travel plans

Click to play video: 'Major winter storm headed for Ontario, will likely impact holiday travel plans'
Major winter storm headed for Ontario, will likely impact holiday travel plans
WATCH: According to Global News’ Chief Meteorologist Anthony Farnell, the storm will arrive from the U.S. Midwest and will rapidly deepen over the Great Lakes on Friday. – Dec 21, 2022

A major winter storm is expected across parts of southern Ontario just ahead of Christmas Day — and will impact travel plans for most Ontarians planning to commute back and forth for the holidays.

According to Global News’ Chief Meteorologist Anthony Farnell, the storm will arrive from the U.S. Midwest and will rapidly deepen over the Great Lakes on Friday and early Saturday — Christmas Eve.

Although Friday will see mild temperatures as the system moves in as rain, Farnell said it will be replaced with much Arctic air and snow as Friday progresses.

“This could result in a flash freeze across parts of southern Ontario,” Farnell said.

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SkyTracker’s futurecast for an expected major winter storm across Ontario for Friday ahead of Christmas 2022. Anthony Farnell/Global News

For the Greater Toronto Area, Farnell said the timing of the cold front appears to be mid-morning on Friday.

He also said blizzard conditions could develop late Friday into Saturday for areas west of the GTA and possibly parts of cottage country.

“Winds are likely to be the biggest concern later Friday into Saturday and could gust from 100 km/h to 120 km/h near the shore of Lake Huron and Lake Ontario,” Farnell continued.

“This will combine with a period of heavy snow and in some spots persistent lake effect snow that lingers into Christmas Day.”

On Saturday, near-zero visibility, frigid temperatures and drifting snow will make travel extremely difficult especially around exposed highways outside of the major cities.

Farnell said it is still too early to determine exact snowfall amounts for the GTA. However, totals of 30 to 60 cm of snow are possible in the persistent lake effect snow squalls around Georgian Bay, Lake Huron, and the east side of Lake Erie and Ontario.

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Ontario winter weather patterns expected on Friday and Saturday ahead of Christmas Day 2022. Anthony Farnell / Global News

Environment Canada issues special weather statement for ‘significant winter storm’

Meanwhile, Environment Canada has already issued a special weather statement for a “significant winter storm” expected late this week into the holiday season.

In the statement, the agency describes a similar weather pattern that starts with rain due to mild temperatures and then transitioning into snow with possibilities of a flash freeze and blizzards.

“While there is high confidence in a high impact winter storm, the details regarding wind speeds, precipitation types and amounts remain highly uncertain at this time,” Environment Canada noted.

“Consider altering plans through the holiday weekend as travel conditions may become dangerous. Extensive utility outages are possible,” the statement continued, adding temperatures Friday night into the weekend will “likely be the coldest of the season to date.”

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Peter Kimbell, a warning preparedness meteorologist with Environment Canada, told Global News that it will be a multi-day weather event with fluctuating temperatures that could cause treacherous driving conditions.

Kimbell said Friday will be the worst day for travel and that is why the weather agency is issuing the alert early as the Christmas holidays approach.

“That’s part of the reason why we’re having this conversation [Tuesday], so many days off from the start of the system,” Kimbell said.

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