The City of Toronto has been placed under a winter weather travel advisory as a mix of snow and freezing rain moves into the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).
Similar advisories are in place for the regions of Peel, York, Durham and Halton, and the messy conditions could lead to a hazardous evening commute across the GTA.
The snow began falling late on Monday afternoon but could transition into freezing rain or ice pellets tonight.
“Travel may be hazardous due to sudden changes in the weather. Prepare for quickly changing and deteriorating travel conditions,” the weather advisory from Environment Canada states.
At its peak, Environment Canada says between 2 to 4 cm of snow is expected to fall per hour, particularly during the evening commute. The total accumulation is forecasted at 5 to 10 cm.
Director of Operations and Maintenance with Toronto Transportation Services Vince Sferrazza told CP24 that crews across the city are on standby, ready to salt roadways and clear snow if necessary.
“Crews and equipment will be ready to be deployed once the snow starts to fall and stick on the roads and sidewalks,” Sferrazza said.
“When you have a situation where there’s going to be a switch from snow to rain, it’s not really ideal in that situation to do any advance application of brine, where you put liquid brine on the road, because at that point, the rain will wash it off, but because we do have crews all ready to go right now, and we also have all of our staff working overnight, we’re prepared for the transition over from snow to freezing rain and we’ll likely have to be applying multiple rounds of salt as a result of that.”
Sferrazza says the city is also prepared to transition to plowing should more snow fall than is expected.
“In the event that if we don’t get the freezing rain, and we get snow accumulation, then we’ll certainly transition over to plowing. But this is nothing new to us and we actually prepare for these types of situations,” he said.
Sferrazza added that since the storm is expected to intensify during rush hour, drivers should be prepared to slow down, take extra caution and keep a safe distance from snow-clearing and salting equipment.
“You’re going to see all of our equipment on the road and on the sidewalks so when you see the equipment, please do not drive closely to it,” he said.
“I know people want to get home but we do have to allow the equipment to do their job… it’s going to be wet and slippery, so please drive according to conditions. Give yourself plenty of time to get home. Leave a little bit early if you can, but drive safely and slowly and please just watch out for our equipment.”
Reduced visibility is anticipated during the evening commute, along with heavy and blowing snow with strong easterly winds gusting up to 60 km/h. The wind is expected to turn to strong westerly winds of the same strength on Tuesday.
By Tuesday morning, the snowfall will taper to light snow, drizzle or freezing drizzle, according to Environment Canada.
TTC Severe Weather Plan
Anti-icing and snow clearing protocols are in place for all buses, streetcars and subways, according to the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC).
Some subway trains will be stored in tunnels along the main lines to avoid issues getting out of the yards.
The entire streetcar overhead network has been treated with an anti-icing application, and the TTC says if issues come up on the 512 St Clair streetcar line, replacement buses will be available.
The Line 3 Scarborough SRT is expected to stick to its regular service route and trains will be running back and forth on the tracks overnight to keep them clear for Tuesday morning.
Private contractor tow trucks are also ready to assist with any trapped vehicles and the TTC’s fleet of snow-clearing equipment will be deployed as conditions progress.
The TTC says it will provide frequent social media and web updates tonight should any service become interrupted.