All of southern Ontario is under some form of weather advisory ahead of a major storm that’s expected to move into the region beginning Thursday.
The complex weather system is forecasted to begin as rain for most areas on Thursday before temperatures drop Friday, causing a flash freeze.
Precipitation is then expected to transition to snow, with accumulation amounts greatly varying depending on the location.
Strong wind gusts of up to 120 km/h are expected for some places.
Environment Canada has issued a blizzard warning for portions of southern Ontario, including the Bruce Peninsula, Grey County, southern Bruce County, Huron County, Perth County, Dufferin County, northern Wellington County, as well as southern Niagara Region.
The weather agency is warning of a “crippling blizzard” for those areas extending into the weekend as lake effect snowsqualls develop. Accumulation amounts of up to 50 cm is possible, Environment Canada said, but in the Niagara Region, the weather agency is warning of 15 to 30 cm, with locally higher amounts closer to Fort Erie.
Global News meteorologist Anthony Farnell is forecasting even higher amounts, with up to 75 cm possible in western areas and up to 40 cm in parts of Niagara.
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Meanwhile, the Greater Toronto Area is under a winter storm warning, with one of the hazards being “wind gusts of up to 90km/h creating widespread blowing snow which will significantly reduce visibility.”
Forecasted accumulation for the GTA is 5 to 15 cm, the weather agency said.
“Precipitation is expected to begin as rain or snow late this afternoon or early this evening before transitioning to rain for many areas tonight. Temperatures are expected to plummet on Friday morning leading to a potential flash freeze,” the winter storm warning read.
“Rapidly falling temperatures will be accompanied by damaging winds, snow at times heavy, and widespread blowing snow.”
Power outages possible
Global News meteorologist Ross Hull further broke down what can be expected.
“In most of southern Ontario, it will begin as rain, but in eastern Ontario including Ottawa, it will be cold enough initially for wet snow possibly mixed with freezing rain,” he said.
“Potential for 10 to 15 cm of wet snow for the Ottawa area with this first wave of moisture then additional snow will fall during the day on Friday.”
Areas initially seeing rain can expect a quick transition to snow Friday morning with the flash freeze.
“For the GTA that will likely start by 9 a.m. The concern with the initial rain then a quick freeze is it will wash away any brine on the roadways, creating very icy conditions with snow falling on top of that,” Hull said.
“Snow amounts for the GTA Friday into early Saturday are expected to be in the 5-10 cm range (some areas could see up to 15 cm) but it’s not necessarily the amounts we are concerned about, but how it will blow around quite easily creating whiteout conditions as the strong wind gusts which will likely reach 90 km/h or higher at times Friday afternoon into early Saturday morning”
Hull said there is a concern for power outages due to the strong winds.
Hydro One said Wednesday it’s crews are preparing to respond.
“Areas that see the combination of very strong winds and the heaviest snow due to snow squalls are under blizzard warnings – including southern Niagara and parts of midwestern Ontario to the lee of Lake Huron,” Hull said.
“The combination of the very strong winds and the squalls will lead to very dangerous conditions on local highways, so expect road closures in those areas.”
The snowbelts will continue to see heavy snow due to squalls throughout the day on Saturday.
The heaviest snow will ease for the Toronto area by Saturday morning.