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"If model trends hold, the two most spoken words this weekend in southern Ontario won't be Merry Christmas; they will be 'Ice Storm'"-- Chris Scott, Weather Network chief meteorologist.

Freezing rain warnings issued in southern Ontario ahead of weekend winter storm

Digital writers

Friday, December 20, 2013, 7:17 AM -

STORM WATCH: Tune into The Weather Network on TV for continued updates on this storm.

It couldn't have come at a worse time.

As Ontarians prepare for the holiday season, two storms threaten to significantly impact travel plans this weekend.

on Thursday afternoon, Environment Canada issued a series of freezing rain warnings, calling for ice accretion up to 5 mm in some places.

Toronto, Hamilton, Halton, Peel, Waterloo, Orangeville and Kingston are among the communities included in the warning.

"Several disturbances originating in Texas are expected to move towards the lower Great Lakes starting Friday," says Environment Canada in a statement.

"Poor travel conditions can be expected over the regions from early Friday into early Saturday."


The first surge of moisture is coming into southern Ontario late Thursday with temperatures hovering right around the freezing mark.

"The most recent assessment suggest that areas north of a line from Kincardine to Barrie to Ottawa are likely to see mainly snow with total snow amounts near 10 centimetres possible tonight into Friday," says EC early Thursday. "South of this line, little snowfall is expected with precipitation more likely to be in the form of rain, freezing rain or ice pellets."

The Friday morning commute could be a messy one, and motorists are being urged to allow for plenty of extra time.

"Many asking if [southern Ontario] could miss this weekend storm," Weather Network Chief Meteorologist Chris Scott tweeted on Thursday.

"No. Only question is how much of which type of precipitation [will] fall."

Those with air travel plans are also being advised to call ahead with flight delays and cancellations possible.

Toronto's Pearson International airport expects more than two million passengers will travel through the airport during the three weeks surrounding Christmas, with Friday being the busiest day of this year's holiday travel season. 

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The last winter storm that hit the region last weekend was cold, giving meteorologists a good indication that the precipitation would come down as snow. With more milder air to work with this time around, it's making precipitation types a lot more difficult to nail down.

The precipitation may become more intermittent on Saturday before another more potent disturbance approaches the region Sunday.


"This next storm system is expected to tap into moisture from the Gulf of Mexico," EC adds. "There is a risk that this could be a major ice storm for an appreciable swath of southern Ontario."

Confidence is growing that areas along the Highway 401 corridor have the greatest likelihood for significant freezing rain amounts.

There have been comparisons to the major ice storm of 1998 that impacted thousands, but meteorologists don't expect this storm to be as bad.

"We shouldn't be worried that this is going to be a similar storm to what they saw in 1998, but it does mean that we could see prolonged periods of freezing rain and that does mean that you want to be prepared if you live in southern Ontario," says Monica Vaswani, a meteorologist at The Weather Network. "You don't want to be out on the roads during a freezing rain event and you really want to plan your travel around this, especially when we have temperatures hovering around the zero degree mark, it is very easy for our forecast to change."

A minor change in the position of the front will have a substantial impact on the forecast.


"The best chance for freezing rain throughout southern Ontario is really Saturday afternoon, continuing throughout the day on Saturday, into the overnight on Sunday and then at some point on Sunday, maybe in the morning, maybe in the afternoon, we could get a little bit of a break from that freezing rain," Vaswani says. "But that's a long period of time, that's anywhere from 12 to 24 hours of freezing rain."

Widespread power outages are possible due to fallen tree limbs and power lines.

"For areas farther north, there is also the possibility for significant snowfall and ice pellets from Lake Huron eastward to the Quebec border," EC adds.

While there's still some uncertainty surrounding these disturbances and their exact tracks, it is very likely to impact holiday shopping and travel plans during the final weekend before Christmas.

Be sure to check back for frequent updates on this storm and tune into TV as we continue to track its impact.

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