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Ontario flooding remains high risk, unpredictable

Digital writers

Thursday, February 22, 2018, 8:06 PM - Wednesday was marked by flood crises in parts of southern Ontario, particularly the Grand River, where flood warnings were still in effect for much of its watershed Thursday. A three year-old child remains missing.

Ice jams and days of rain made for elevated water levels, forcing road closures in several communities, including Cambridge and Brantford. 

The latter city was forced to declare a state of emergency, and issued an evacuation order affecting almost 5,000 people in the Holmedale, Old West Brant, and Eagle Place areas of the community, which remained in effect into Thursday morning.

"We are still in response mode," Brantford Mayor Chris Friel told reporters at a press conference Thursday.

"The ice jam area … is like nothing we've ever seen before ... It is dramatically clogged with debris, including large trees."

Up to 800 people remain without power and could be out of their homes until Friday. Several homes have been damaged.

Watch below: Ice chunks cover entire Ontario highway, see it here

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Some ice jams did clear Wednesday, relieving flooding pressure somewhat, but leaving behind massive chunks of ice for crews to clear. At one point, a sink hole on Highway 401 westbound at Highway 24 in Cambridge forced a highway closure that lasted into the evening before all lanes reopened.

The Canadian Coast Guard spent Tuesday breaking up ice at the mouth of the Grand River on Lake Erie, and spokeswoman Carol Launderville said the CCGS Griffon returned for another round Wednesday.

"The commanding officer of the CCGS Griffon, Michael Hines, reported fast ice from one side of the Grand River to the other and nothing had started to break until the icebreaker arrived," Launderville says. "By the end of Tuesday afternoon, open water started to form at the upper end of our track as the broken ice flowed towards the mouth of the river. The Coast Guard broke the ice to the approaches and out onto the lake. After the ice starts to move away from the mouth, the ice in the river will have a place to go."

Child missing

At least one person -- a three-year-old child -- remains missing after a vehicle was swept into the Grand River in the early morning hours of Wednesday.

According to the Toronto Star, the van's driver did not see a road closure sign before driving into the swollen river. A police spokesman told reporters she managed to leave the vehicle with her three-year son, but lost her grip on him, losing him to the river.

Police were combing the river and its banks Wednesday in what has been described as a recovery operation. After being suspended overnight due to loss of light, that search is set to resume Thursday.

WATCH BELOW: Premier Kathleen Wynne visits flood-affected areas

Record-breaking temperatures followed by a chilly Thursday

Toronto Pearson Airport broke temperature records on both Tuesday and Wednesday, but temperatures returned to the freezing level by Wednesday afternoon, with Thursday set to be the coldest day of the 

"Thursday will be the coldest day of the week, but it won't be truly cold for late February with highs near seasonal," Weather Network meteorologist Dr. Doug Gillham says. 

Two more systems will impact the region late this week with the first bringing light rain showers on Friday and the second late Saturday afternoon and evening. 

"Temperatures will be marginally cold at that time, so we are watching the threat for a period of snow and freezing rain (especially for northern parts of the Golden Horseshoe), but rain will once again be the dominant precipitation type as temperatures rise through Saturday night," Gillham says.

Despite the spring-like ending to February in southern Ontario, there is an abundance of Arctic air and wintry weather across western Canada.

"We expect a return to a more wintry pattern across southern Ontario during the first week of March.," Gillham warns. "Winter is not over just yet and March will likely still bring some significant winter weather (as it often does)."

For a more comprehensive look at weather conditions in the GTA, here's a detailed analysis.

WATCH BELOW: What is an ice jam? Are ice jams dangerous?

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