By the Canadian Press
People getting around the GTA are facing some major challenges as a bout of messy winter weather continues to wreak havoc with roads and transportation systems.
A snowfall warning from Environment Canada is in effect for the entire GTA and most of southern Ontario. The snowfall warnings are in effect across an area from Kingston in the east to London in the west, and as far north as Sudbury.
With roughly 19 centimetres already on the ground as of 10 p.m., the city broke a Jan. 28 snowfall record previously set in 2009, when the city saw 13.4 centimetres of snow.
The snow started falling in the GTA before noon as an Alberta Clipper began tracking over southern Ontario. The weather system is expected to dump between 15 to 20 centimetres over parts of the region by tonight.
“Total snowfall accumulations of 15 to 20 cm are likely, with the highest amounts expected closer to Lake Ontario where extra moisture from the lake may boost snowfall amounts,” Environment Canada said in its weather advisory.
The national weather agency said there will likely be a “significant impact” on driving conditions during both the evening commute on Monday and the morning commute on Tuesday.
“Prepare for quickly changing and deteriorating travel conditions. Surfaces such as highways, roads, walkways and parking lots may become difficult to navigate due to accumulating snow,” Environment Canada said.
Police dealing with collisions
People across the city reported dealing with abnormally long commute times Monday night as vehicles struggled to navigate the snow-covered roads.
Toronto police said they were dealing with about 250 collisions Monday night.
Shortly before midnight Monday, the city said it was closing the northbound lanes of the Don Valley Parkway between the Gardiner Expressway and Bloor Street due to poor road conditions.
Toronto police said they were trying to clear stalled vehicles and make room to salt and plow the road.
Many motorists in the northbound lanes of the DVP reported being stuck in their vehicles for hours, barely moving.
A number of motorists found themselves stuck near the Don Mills exit and police had to put out a call to all available snowplows to help remove vehicles.
“We are asking everyone – do not use the Don Valley Parkway, especially northbound now,” Const. David Hopkinson told CP24 at around 11 p.m. “What we’re trying to do is clear the highway so we can get the snow plows, the salt trucks onto the highway, clear the snow, try to deal with the ice by salt and then open it up again.”
Hopkinson said a transport truck rollover at the Bloor off-ramp means that drivers cannot exit at Bloor and have to continue north. The jam runs almost the entire length of the DVP, Hopkinson said.
It is not clear how long the closure will last.
At around 10 p.m., Ontario Provincial Police said they had been called to roughly 100 collisions on highways around the GTA.
“Those are just the crashes we’ve actually been called to investigate,” OPP Sgt. Kerry Schmidt told CP24.
He said there were many others where drivers went to a collision reporting centre themselves.
The slick roads sent vehicles around the GTA sliding and Schmidt said there have been some highway closures because of jackknifed tractor trailers.
“This is just one of those days where it’s going to take you a little longer or a lot longer to get home,” Schmidt said.
He advised people to turn headlights on, make sure to clear snow off your vehicle before driving and use extra caution on the roads.
“You need to just pay complete attention,” Schmidt said. “Be attentive, be alert, give yourself that following distance so you can stop if you need to.”
He also advised people to stay home if they don’t need to go out.
Mark Mills, the city’s road operations supervisor, told CP24 Monday evening that plows were expected to start clearing arterial roads sometime between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.
“This rush hour will slow us down a little bit with this congestion,” Mills said.
He estimated it would take anywhere from three to six hours to clear the main roads. Sidewalk clearing is expected to get underway between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. and plows were expected to begin clearing local roads around midnight, with that effort lasting into tomorrow afternoon.
City crews were out in full force earlier today preparing for the heavy snowfall.
“Our first line of defence is always salting. So we will concentrate on salting on the expressways, main arterial roadways, collector roads, then we will get into the local roads,” Mills said earlier Monday.
“If you have flexibility in your schedule today or the opportunity to leave work a little early to beat the p.m. rush, that might be a suggestion or to use public transit today.”
Transit and flight delays, cancellations
The TTC said Monday afternoon that Line 3 (Scarborough RT) was being shut down due to weather conditions.
“There will be no train service on the entire Line 3,” TTC Spokesperson Stuart Green said. “Those trains will not be in service. Instead there will be 17 shuttle buses running and those buses will be stopping at every station along the route.”
Images posted to social media showed TTC buses stuck on the road or struggling to get up hills.
While some problems were reported on surface routes, the rest of the subway system is operating without any significant delays.
The messy weather is also causing flight delays and cancellations. More than 240 departing flights have been cancelled at Pearson International Airport today. Passengers are being advised to check for updates before heading to the airport.
“Airlines will be making decisions about delays and cancellations, so we suggest that passengers confirm their flight plans before travelling today,” the airport wrote on Twitter.
The airport said delays or cancellations could continue into Monday morning as well.
Snow prompts some university closures/ recreation cancellations
The TDSB said Monday that due to the weather, all board-related activities and meetings, including continuing education classes and school permits are cancelled as of end of school day. The TCDSB also said that all permits will be cancelled this evening.
Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board has cancelled all adult and continuing education classes, as well as permits for school and board facilities for tonight.
All City of Toronto recreation programs are cancelled as of 6 p.m. tonight. Community centres will remain open for permits. Artificial outdoor ice rinks will not be supervised, but may be open depending on ice conditions. Artificial Outdoor Ice Rinks will not be supervised, but may be open depending on ice conditions.
York University has cancelled classes and operations at both of its campuses this evening.
The University of Toronto said Monday evening that all classes, tutorials, labs, tests and all academic activities are cancelled at all three of its campuses for the rest of the day. U of T Mississauga campus is completely shut down, except for essential services personnel.
Due to the snow storm, all of Sheridan College’s campuses will be closed at 4 p.m.
Classes at Ryerson University are cancelled as of 6 p.m. and the Humber College campus will close as of 6 p.m.
George Brown College also said that it will close at 4 p.m. due to the heavy snowfall. The college said all night classes will be cancelled. Lab School Child Care Centres will be closing at 4 p.m. as well, the school said. Further updates about Tuesday are expected to be posted on the school’s website by 4 a.m.
The City of Brampton has cancelled all scheduled recreation programs as of 3 p.m. Fitness centres will remain open, but fitness classes are cancelled.
OCAD University will be closed as of 6 p.m.
Seneca College has cancelled all continuing education classes tonight. All community recreation programs, varsity, campus recreation and fitness activities are also cancelled at all campuses as of 6 p.m. All campuses will remain open.