Treacherous travel as snow squall, blizzard warnings cover parts of Ontario
Monday, January 6, 2014, 8:44 PM -
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Dangerous driving conditions are being reported across Ontario on a day where thousands of residents headed back to school and work following the holidays.
Snow, freezing rain and rain picked up across southern Ontario and Quebec on Sunday as temperatures hovered near the zero degree mark.
As the centre of the low pressure system moved by, plunging temperatures prompted widespread wind chill and flash freeze warnings.
Environment Canada ended the flash freeze warnings across southern Ontario late Monday morning after surfaces iced up quickly.
In Waterloo, severe winds accompanying this system were strong enough to break traffic lights.
"LIFE-THREATENING" WIND CHILLS
By the evening, the wind chill had dipped to -37 in Windsor, just a few degrees away from breaking the city's record of -42, set on January 23, 1963.
Cold, Arctic air filtering in behind this system is producing frigid wind chill values across southern Ontario, ranging from -35 to -40 Monday night into Tuesday morning.
According to Environment Canada, "the combination of a fresh heavy snowfall from [Sunday's] storm with intense snow squalls and bitter wind chills [Monday] poses a life-threatening risk for anyone outside for any duration, or stranded in vehicles if roads become snow-blocked."
Motorists are being advised to ensure they have an adequate car emergency kit and ample fuel if travelling any distance.
Interestingly, southwestern Ontario (Windsor to London) will be colder than southeastern Ontario (Toronto to Ottawa) Tuesday morning.
"Wind chills will be severe, particularly Monday p.m. through Tuesday," says Weather Network chief meteorologist Chris Scott. "Windsor’s all-time wind chill record is -42; this record could be in jeopardy Monday evening. All regions of southern Ontario will be experiencing dangerous wind chills through the day on Tuesday will bitterly cold air and knifing westerly winds."
In wind chills of -30 to -40, frostbite can occur in 10-30 minutes, and hypothermia is a significant risk for those improperly dressed.
The good news is that temperatures will slowly rise after Wednesday. It's looking likely that we'll see daytime highs above zero by the weekend.
SNOW SQUALLS AND DANGEROUS BLIZZARD CONDITIONS
In the wake of the storm centre, bitterly cold west to northwest winds have resulted in the development of intense snow squalls southeast of Lake Huron and Georgian Bay.
By the evening, localized snowfall totals between 30 and 60 cm had been recorded in some communities, along with wind gusts up to 80 km/h.
"Very low visibilities are likely with near whiteout conditions under the most intense snow bands," EC warns.
Blizzard warnings also cover parts of the region with up to 30 cm of snow possible in some places by Tuesday morning.
Ontario Provincial Police in the GTA say they responded to about one call every two minutes during the Monday morning commute, while CAA South Central Ontario said hundreds of calls came in from stranded motorists.
Dozens of flights were delayed or cancelled at Toronto's Pearson International Airport, as well as Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec City.
The poor travel conditions also prompted numerous bus cancellations across the region.
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"A combination of the dangerous snow squalls with extreme wind chills of minus 35 to minus 40 will produce frequent blizzard conditions this afternoon and tonight," EC adds. "Frequent to widespread very low to nil visibilities with near whiteout conditions are expected especially in exposed areas during the snow squalls."
The blizzard conditions will slowly ease somewhat on Tuesday although the snow squalls and blowing snow are likely to continue in many areas, EC adds.