Police in Ontario urge drivers to ‘stay home’ as massive winter storm continues

Click to play video: 'Pre-Christmas storm grinds much of southern Ontario to a halt'
Pre-Christmas storm grinds much of southern Ontario to a halt
WATCH: Pre-Christmas storm grinds much of southern Ontario to a halt – Dec 23, 2022

Police are asking Ontarians to “stay home” as a massive winter storm continues to wreak havoc across the province.

In a video posted to Twitter around 2:45 p.m. on Saturday, Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) Sgt. Kerry Schmidt said crews are still dealing with “extreme winter weather all across the province.”

“Strong winds, white out conditions (and) treacherous driving (are) causing a lot of issues in many areas,” he said.

Read more: Thousands without power, numerous crashes reported in southern Ontario as winter storm hits

Schmidt urged Ontarians to “stay home if you don’t need to get anywhere.”

“Please consider the consequences of getting stuck in an area you’re not familiar with,” he said. “Please, you know realize how dangerous it is out there. We don’t want to spoil a Christmas but we also want you to be safe.”

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If you must travel, Scmidt said to pack an emergency kit, and to “make sure your tailpipe is clear if you ever get stuck or stranded.”

Schmidt said there are “many road closures” across the province, including along the QEW Highway between Niagara Falls and Fort Erie, and along Highways 401 and 201.

According to Schmidt, a partial closure between Woodstock and London was “in the process of being re-opened.”

Further east, Schmidt said there were road closures on Highway 417.

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“And on the 401 out to the Quebec border, we have lane closures and road closures there. As well as detours in place, there are many areas that have road closures, even municipalities and instituting states of emergency,” he said.

Schmidt said drivers trying to get to Manitoba taking the northern route should “be prepared for long delays.”

“We have lake-effect snow coming across from Georgian Bay through Midland up to Huntsville and and areas in central Ontario,” he said. “Be aware that road closures exist through central Ontario, Western Ontario up through the Grey Bruce area and all the way down through southwestern Ontario.”

According to Schmidt, police have received reports of the first traffic fatality.

“We’re investigating how if any of the weather conditions played a part in that but that is still an ongoing investigation.,” he said.

Earlier on Saturday, OPP said more than 500 collisions were reported across Ontario, and urged motorists to “reconsider travel plans until the weather improves and the roads are reopened.”

Schmidt said several police cruisers and other emergency vehicles had vbeen involved in collisions too, adding that some had been “struck by passing vehicles that were not able to stop as a result of either visibility or slippery road conditions.”

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In a statement Saturday, CAA said it was experiencing “an extremely high demand for service due to the weather and road closures,” in south central Ontario.

“Our network is working at full capacity while we prioritize emergency calls and members in unsafe situations,” the statement read. “Members waiting in safety at home or at work may experience longer than expected wait times.”

CAA said motorists should avoid unnecessary travel as the conditions on the road are “slick and slippery.”

On Saturday, Hydro One said crews had made “significant progress” and had restored power to more than 230,000 customers across the province.

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“More than 76,000 customers are still without power and the company anticipates additional outages will be reported today as severe winds and extreme conditions persist along many of Ontario’s shorelines,” a press release read. “In addition, road closures and hazardous driving conditions in parts of southern, central and eastern Ontario continue to make it unsafe for Hydro One crews to respond immediately.”

Hydro One Chief Operating Officer, David Lebeter, said the company anticipates it will take “multiple days” to restore power to all of its customers.

“We want our customers to know we have every available resource working over the holidays to restore power as soon as it is safe to do so,” he said. “We know this isn’t how anyone envisioned spending the holidays, however we are committed to working through these challenging conditions until every customer is restored.”

— With a file from The Canadian Press

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