'Wild weather' headed for the GTA
Get your shovels ready — “wild weather” is headed to the GTA in the form of the worst snowstorm in at least two years, warns Environment Canada.
Starting around noon Tuesday, 20 to 30 centimetres of snow — that’s nearly a foot — is expected to hit the Greater Toronto Area and Environment Canada has issued a winter storm watch across all of southern Ontario, including Toronto, Hamilton, Barrie and London.
Heavy snowfall and winds from 40 to 60 km/h will increase late into the night and continue into early Wednesday, with Monday’s frigid temperatures — -16 C, which felt like -22 C with the wind chill factor — warming marginally to -8 C, which still will feel like -16 C. The average temperature for early February is about -2 C.
As soon as the snow begins, Toronto’s fleet of 200 salt trucks will hit the expressways and main roads. Once it hits five centimetres, the 600 snow plows will follow, first to expressways and main arteries and then local roads. Road plowing is normally completed between 14 to 16 hours after a storm has ended.
In the centre of the city, property owners are required to clear their sidewalks of snow within 12 hours after a storm. The city will clear snow from sidewalks where it is possible to do so after 5 cm of snow has fallen.
The cause of the storm is a low pressure system developing over the southern states, said Dave Phillips, Environment Canada’s senior climatologist. Cold air from the north will combine with “warm sopping moist air from the south.”
“This is when wild weather breaks out,” he said.
By the time the severe storm system has made its way through 29 U.S. states and four Canadian provinces, it will have affected 100 million people in North America, says Phillips.
But he also says location is everything, and there’s a chance the system could stay more to the south, which could cause Toronto to get more snow than areas further north. “The closer you are to Lake Ontario and Lake Erie, the more effect it’s going to have.”
But Ontario won’t see the worst of it: The storm is already bringing rain, snow, ice, hail and even tornadoes south of the border.
“All we’re going to deal with is snow, and blowing and drifting,” Phillips says.
Before noon Tuesday, Phillips predicts there will be a “dress rehearsal” for the big snowfall, saying flurries will likely begin in the morning.
So far this winter, the most snowfall Toronto has seen in one day is 11 cm. Last winter, it was 9.6 cm in one day.
--Wendy Gillis, Staff Reporter, with files from Louise Brown