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Science Behind The Weather: Lake effect snow

Narrow snow squall to impact Toronto and GTA, creating local whiteout conditions


Chris Scott
Chief Meteorologist

Friday, January 9, 2015, 1:46 PM - Lake-effect snow squalls have closed roads in the snow belts of Southern Ontario and will continue to pound these areas into the evening.

However, a narrow snow squall will also impact Toronto and GTA over the next few hours, creating local whiteout conditions.

This squall is coming off Lake Huron and will have its greatest impact on the GTA between 12-4 pm. At any given time, most people will NOT be seeing snow this afternoon. In fact, sunshine will predominate outside the narrow 5 km wide squall. That’s what makes this situation especially dangerous for drivers. Road conditions will be fine with traffic moving quickly one minute, while the next minute visibility is severely reduced and drivers slam on their brakes

The narrow squall looks to impact Brampton first, then extend into parts of Toronto in the early afternoon. It will then slither northeastwards through the afternoon to affect Vaughan and eventually Markham and Richmond Hill. It’s likely that southern Mississauga through Hamilton will see little more than a flurry out of this. 

Overall snow amounts in areas affected by the squall will not be high. This will only produce a few centimetres at most. The main issue is the impact on the Friday afternoon drive particularly through the early and mid-afternoon.

Outside the GTA, road conditions will be consistently poor through the Barrie and Orillia area as well through most of midwestern Ontario from Listowel through Mount Forest to Wiarton. Overnight, the Hwy 21 corridor will continue to experience squalls while the worst activity off Georgian Bay moves north of Barrie into Muskoka and Parry Sound.

Anyone from southern or eastern Ontario with driving plans through New York state should consider alternate routes with both I-81 near Watertown and I-90 near Buffalo severely impacted by lake-effect snow squalls through tonight.

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