Roads closed, outages mount as blizzard rages across Ontario

Digital WritersThe Weather Network
Digital Writers

Blizzard conditions will continue across Ontario through Friday night, closing roads and knocking out power to tens of thousands.

A powerful winter storm raging across southern Ontario will make travel hazardous to nearly impossible throughout the region as we head into the start of the holiday weekend. Blizzard conditions are occurring or expected across many sections of the province.

Hold off on all non-essential travel until conditions improve. This is the kind of storm that can and will leave motorists stranded on the road, which is no small ordeal when it’s this cold and windy.

Heavy snowfall, potentially damaging winds, blizzard conditions, and icy roads and surfaces will all pose a hazard heading into the long holiday weekend.


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Before dawn on Friday morning, between 5-15 cm of snow was already reported in parts of northern Ontario, with more than 5 cm recorded in the city of Ottawa. According to Hydro One, more than 60,000 were without power by midday Friday as strong winds kicked across the province.

Heavy snowfall and whiteout conditions have led to widespread road closures across southern Ontario. All roads in Dufferin County were closed as of 2:25 p.m. local time. Authorities closed sections of Highways 401 and 402 on Friday afternoon due to impassable conditions and multiple collisions.

“Fortunately, no serious injuries have been associated with any of the multi-vehicle collisions along the 401/402 corridor,” the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) tweeted on Friday.

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WestJet cancelled all flights out of Pearson on Friday as well, stating the weather situation across Canada is "unlike anything we've experienced."

Widespread blizzard warnings are in effect across southern Ontario as the storm rages across the region. Blizzard warnings blanket southwestern Ontario and many of the lakeshores, including the communities of Hamilton, St. Catharines, London, Windsor, Goderich, Kincardine, Orillia, and Kingston.

Communities under this warning could experience “crippling blizzard conditions,” according to Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC).

Elsewhere, winter storm warnings cover the rest of southern and eastern Ontario into the start of the weekend, alerting residents of the risk for heavy snow and high winds creating reduced or zero visibility that will make travel dangerous for the duration of the storm.


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Friday: Widespread blizzard conditions wreak travel havoc

Conditions steadily deteriorated into the day Friday as this mammoth storm system wrapped up and intensified over the Great Lakes region.

Friday’s high temperature occurred early in the morning before the legendary push of Arctic air crossed the border and swept over Ontario. Windsor’s temperature dropped from 1°C at 1:00 a.m. down to -17°C with a wind chill value of -32 by 1:00 p.m.

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Frigid temperatures and dangerously cold wind chills will continue into the long holiday weekend.

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While the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) won’t have to deal with major snow accumulations from this system, anyone driving outside of the GTA to the west or north will likely have to deal with dangerous conditions over the next couple of days. It’s critically important to be aware of what’s happening throughout the region.

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Wind gusts will continue to intensify throughout the day Friday as this powerful and dynamic system exerts its influence on the region.

Lakeshore communities along Huron, Erie, and Ontario could see gusts exceed 90 km/h, with widespread gusts of 70-80+ km/h across the rest of southern Ontario.

WATCH: What we've seen during intense Ontario blizzard so far

In addition to the risk for power outages and damage, the intense winds are creating blizzard conditions and whiteouts across areas dealing with snowfall.

"Remember, it does not take much accumulation in combination with very strong winds for whiteout conditions to develop," says Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) in the winter storm warning. "Consider postponing non-essential travel until conditions improve."

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Travel along the 401 corridor east of Toronto and towards Kingston is highly discouraged.

Visibility can change rapidly during high winds and heavy snowfall.

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Powerful southwesterly winds across the lakes will also lead to large waves, as well as a risk for ice shoves and ice buildup along the shoreline.

Saturday (Christmas Eve): Intense snow squalls set up

Howling winds will continue across Ontario through Saturday, giving rise to intense snow squalls across the traditional snowbelts.

Intense lake-enhanced snow squalls are likely off Lake Huron, Georgian Bay, and Lake Erie. Road closures are likely as heavy snowfall combines with powerful winds up to 100 km/h to lead to widespread whiteout conditions.

Regions caught beneath these snow squalls could see 50-75 cm of snow by the end of the weekend. Exact measurements will be tricky due snow blowing and drifting in the high winds.

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Sunday (Christmas Day): Conditions gradually improve as system pushes east

Christmas Day itself is looking much better across the bulk of Ontario’s population centres as the storm lifts north and east out of the province.

Snow squalls will remain a threat for the snowbelts and some communities near Lakes Erie and Ontario. This lake-effect snow could meander and push through southern Ontario at times through the day Sunday.

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Check the forecast if you plan to travel on Christmas Day to see if there is any chance of encountering snow squalls on your route. The squalls will continue through the day, slowly winding down into Boxing Day on Monday.

WATCH: Your questions about holiday storm answered by our meteorologists

Thumbnail image courtesy of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP).

Check back for the latest on the forecast across southern Ontario.