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Breaking down the winter storm that's targeting southern Ontario.

Weekend ice storm threat in southern Ontario

Chris Scott
Chief Meteorologist

Friday, December 20, 2013, 9:17 AM -

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

The term ‘ice storm’ is not thrown around lightly in this country, but it’s being used to describe the weekend weather system that will hit southern Ontario and extend into southern Quebec and the Maritimes.

First off, it’s highly unlikely this would rival the Great Ice Storm of 1998 in eastern Ontario and southern Quebec. This system simply won’t last long enough to create the astounding build-up of ice that occurred over the 5 day period in 1998 that saw ice build-up to the height of a pop can on trees, cars and power lines. However, this weekend storm does have the potential to produce 1-2 cm of ice accretion (build-up) on tree limbs and in turn cause power outages.

RELATED: Snow, freezing rain and rain a major risk in southern Ontario this weekend

Also, it appears that this storm will include an area slightly south of where the Great Ice Storm hit, with the highest potential for significant icing in a zone from London through Kingston, along the Quebec-US border and through the Fundy Shore. This brings into play the heavily populated Golden Horseshoe from Niagara through the Greater Toronto Area, and makes the stakes very high in terms of potential impact to millions of Canadians.

Despite the fact this storm system has yet to even develop – the seed of this storm is still back through southern California - we’re confident that this is storm will hit.  The question is how much, of what type of precipitation, areas through southern Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes will see.  The answer comes down the exact track. Think of an airplane flying from L.A. to Toronto. Imagine the pilot starts just slightly off course by a fraction of a degree – by the time you get to Toronto, you’re off target.  This storm system is large so there is no chance of a ‘miss,’ but having this picture of the airplane being just off course gives you an idea of how sensitive the details of this forecast are to the track of the low pressure system.

Ahead of the main storm, a weak pulse of low pressure will create tricky travel conditions Friday across a large swath of southern Ontario, Quebec and eventually the Maritimes. While the precipitation won’t be overly heavy, it comes on a very busy travel day and will create headaches for many. 

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Our focus for something potentially very big is Saturday afternoon through Sunday as a hose of precipitation from the Gulf of Mexico is aimed at eastern Canada. The period from Saturday night through Sunday morning has the greatest risk for freezing rain and significant ice build-up through Southern Ontario. The exact locations of where this icing is most likely will be pinned down as we get closer, but it’s becoming increasingly likely that some areas will see enough ice accretion to bring down tree limbs and cause power outages.

Sunday, the threat looks to slide through extreme Southern Quebec and across the central Maritimes. Overall, computer models are suggesting the heaviest freezing rain will fall in a zone from London through Niagara and along the Lake Ontario shoreline towards Kingston.  The location and exact amount of freezing rain will determine whether this storm goes down in history as an inconvenient blip in travel plans, or an infamous Scrooge.  

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