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Insider Insights: Articles

GTA Roads: January recap

By Rachel Schoutsen
Presenter, The Weather Network
Monday, February 3, 2014, 1:53 PM

We have been experiencing a classic winter. Blustery snow systems, deep freezes and icy roads are what many people remember when thinking of January 2014.

Oh and the terrible commutes, doubling and tripling travel times in Ontario.

So why was the commute in January so bad? Meteorologist Doug Gillham shares some insight. 

“The unusually cold temperatures have made it much more difficult to keep the roads clear of snow and ice," he says. "This winter we have seen several significant snowfalls with temperatures colder than -10C. Salt and the other chemicals that are used to treat the roads are much more effective when the temperature is closer to freezing. When the temperature is below -10C, the chemicals are often not able to melt the snow quickly enough to keep up with the falling snow, so even treated roads can quickly become snow covered.” 

Snow building up on the roads was a huge issue, but snow whipping through the air was just as scary. 

Visibility was down to zero at times through cottage country in Ontario and the OPP were forced to shut down many side roads as well as parts of the 400 and highway 11 during the second week of January. At one point about 200 km of the 400 was closed in Northern Ontario. 

The 6’s out in Guelph also saw their fair share of problems creating huge back ups onto the 401 in the area. 

“My route was hit with heavy delays often in January.  Just last week there were two cars in the ditch at the Hwy 6 SB on-ramp to the 401 EB due to icy conditions. On the worst day my commute took me one hour and forty five minutes, usually I take an hour,” commented Heather Unwin, a regular Greater Toronto Area commuter. 

Photo: Twitter

Photo: Twitter

Getting from Kitchener into Toronto was a nightmare this January. Drivers on this route had more terrible days than terrific ones. The culprit? Too many crashes, closures and, like Gillham explained, too much snow stuck to the highway.

Caption: Flying ice was a huge issue for drivers, especially in the beginning of January. Photo from Ted Nesbitt

Caption: Flying ice was a huge issue for drivers, especially in the beginning of January. Photo from Ted Nesbitt

During January flying ice and snow was a common complaint on the roads. In the BTT studio we heard way too many reports of ice sliding off transport trucks and smashing windshields or damaging headlights, especially in the beginning of January when all the ice from the ice storm began to thaw.

The entire month brought challenges to Ontario drivers but the last weekend of January certainly went out with a bang! OPP responded to around 1600 crashes Friday into Sunday; unfortunately three of them were fatal.

The 401 was shut down multiple times east of the GTA around Port Hope, Cobourg and Brighton. A crash on Friday afternoon in Brighton had 25 cars and 12 tractor trailers tangled up on the 401, needless to say the delays were painful. 

Active weather also hit Dufferin County hard at the end of the month. Drivers actually abandoned their vehicles and soughthelp in warming centres. The clean up took all weekend, every plow in the area was working to move vehicles off the roads. 

One of the biggest traffic stories of the month was stateside. Michigan City, Indiana, saw an intense tractor trailer pile up on the I-94 just south of Lake Michigan. Snow squalls were present at the time of the crash. 

This winter is one to remember, traffic and weather wise. Many of our Twitter friends are hoping for an easier February and smoother travels.

Here is how some of you described the month!

Check back at the end of February for another recap of the GTA. Hopefully it won't contain the word “snow!"

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