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Blizzard warnings in Grey-Bruce, life-threatening travel with mega-squall

Thursday, February 27th 2020, 6:57 pm - The mega-squall could bring snowfall accumulations over 50 cm and will make travel impossible at times.

Environment Canada has issued a blizzard warning for Grey-Bruce and regions along Lake Huron due to the powerful lake-effect snow squalls.

The warning says that a particularly intense snow squall developed off Lake Huron on Thursday and the effects will linger through the end of the week. The squalls will stretch from the Saugeen Shores to Durham and dangerous blizzard conditions with whiteouts are expected.

Heavy snowfall accumulations will occur in this region and some local accumulations will exceed 50 cm. The lake-effect squalls will linger into Saturday across the snow belts.

Environment Canada recommends that individuals protect themselves from the cold and the wind by staying indoors or under some type of shelter, such as a car if you are on the road during worsening conditions.

Blinding snow and howling winds are all features of a blizzard, but there are specific conditions that must be met or anticipated before it is deemed a blizzard or given a blizzard warning. The criteria are that winds must be sustained at 40 km/h or more for at least four hours combining with falling or blowing snow to cause visibilities to be reduced to 400 m or less, and this is dubbed the 4-4-4 rule.

Towering waves will develop during the windy blizzard conditions and there is the chance that Lake Ontario could see waves that are 6 metres (20 feet) tall in the centre of the lake, and waves as tall as 3 metres on the southern shores of Lake Huron and Lake Erie.

The Weather Network meteorologist Tyler Hamilton says that the ice-free activity that is being observed in Lake Erie is “quite unique for February,” and adds that “a consequence of the ice-free framework in place for February means more lake-effect snow than what is typical for the end of winter.” Approximately only 9 per cent of the lakes are covered in ice, which is significantly lower than the typical 42 per cent coverage.

Snow squalls are a big part of winter life across the Great Lakes region, with wind speeds over the next two days making this a particularly dangerous winter event. The Weather Network meteorologist Mark Robinson says that “squalls (more correctly known as “lake effect snow”) occur as cold air sweeps in over the ice-free Great Lakes in early winter or late fall in the wake of a major storm system. The cold, dry air “picks up” moisture from the, relatively, warm lakes, continues over the land and dumps the moisture as snow.”

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