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Major ice storm unfolding in southern Ontario

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By Chris Scott
Chief Meteorologist
@ChrisScottWx
Sunday, December 22, 2013, 6:22 PM


STORM WATCH: Tune into The Weather Network on TV for continued updates on this storm.


A major ice storm is beginning to unfold across Southern Ontario and will spread along the Quebec-U.S. border into the Fundy Shore into Sunday morning. Extensive tree damage and power outages are likely in the hardest hit areas.

Saturday afternoon’s computer model guidance is unanimous in predicting the heaviest swath of freezing rain from Stratford through Toronto to Kingston, across the Eastern Townships into the Fundy Shore of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

KINGSTON HARDEST HIT

Kingston may end up being the hardest hit with a huge area from Lake Huron to the Bay of Fundy affected by this ice storm, so focusing on one location misses the real story – however, it looks like the Kingston-Gananoque area will be among the hardest hit. Ice build-up may exceed four centimetres, leading to extensive overhead damage and widespread, prolonged power outages. 

GTA IMPACT

This has the potential to be the worst ice storm in decades across the GTA. Of course, the GTA is a huge area extending from Burlington to Oshawa and north to Lake Sicmoe, so there will be variation in the degree of impact. It’s highly likely that all parts of the GTA will see significant freezing rain. The only question is how much and what impact this has on the electrical grid.

Temperatures will be falling below zero through Saturday evening across the entire area meaning that rain will begin to freeze on surfaces. Forecasts have been very consistent in suggesting 20-30 mm of freezing rain could fall resulting in enough ice build-up to bring down tree limbs. Power outages are most likely where hydro lines are above ground and susceptible to the impact from broken tree limbs. Rural areas and older city neighbourhoods with large trees are particularly vulnerable. Areas of slightly higher elevation inland from Lake Ontario will likely experience the worst icing. 

Just to the west, Hamilton will see a great variance in the amount of ice from lesser amounts along the Beach Strip and lower Stoney Creek to substantial, possibly damaging icing on the mountain through Ancaster to Greensville. No question this is an extremely difficult part of the forecast as half a degree will make all the difference in terms of impact.


On the edge

While the main swath of freezing rain can’t miss, locations on the edges are much more difficult to forecast. London in particular will be right on the cusp of freezing. It’s likely that some freezing rain will occur, but the forest city may escape the very worst of the storm. To the north and east, cities like Barrie, Ottawa and Montreal are guaranteed to be below freezing for the bulk of the storm, but the amount of freezing rain should be less than areas farther south. Forecasts for these areas on the edge of the main swath could change significantly even with very small changes in the overall track of the system, so make sure to check your local forecast often.


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Critical safety tips if you lose power

The leading cause of death following an ice storm is carbon monoxide poisoning. Most often, this results from a generator being run in a garage. Carbon monoxide is produced when any carbon-based fuel (e.g. propane, charcoal, gasoline) is burned in an enclosed area without proper ventilation. While deaths from CO poisoning are most common due to gasoline based engines such as generators and cars being run in garages, carbon monoxide poisoning can also occur when charcoal grills or propane barbeques are used indoors. 

If you have a generator, please make sure it is in a well-ventilated location outside the house. 

If you lose power and run your car for an extended period of time to charge a cell phone, make sure your car is outside and not in the garage.

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