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While storm bearing down on Ontario may not be a genuine winter behemoth, but it is shaping up to be the most substantial snowfall to hit parts of southern Ontario in years, Environment Canada said Thursday.
According to the agency, Toronto hasn't seen a snowfall exceeding 15 centimetres on December 19, 2008.
Just before the Thursday evening commute, light flurries moved into the region, a precursor to the storm ahead.
Shortly after the snowfall began, collisions started popping up on GTA highways, including one in Morningside and another in Burlington.
The storm comes courtesy of an Alberta clipper, combined with moisture from a Texas low that's set to bring significant snowfall to much of southern Ontario through Friday.
"The snow will begin across southwestern Ontario Thursday morning and then move into the Greater Toronto Area by the late afternoon," says Gerald Cheng, a meteorologist at The Weather Network. "It will be light to start and will intensify at around 5 pm, picking up through Thursday night."
Between 15-25 cm of snow is expected in the Greater Toronto Area, with locally higher amounts possible. Upwards of 20 cm is forecast from Kingston to Brockville, with a risk of freezing rain in the Windsor area as well.
The City of Toronto issued an extreme weather alert Thursday, advising people who are homeless to seek shelter and triggering extra homelessness services.
Patricia Anderson, the manager of Toronto's shelter, support and housing administration, said such alerts are issued to activate extra resources in the city's homeless shelters, opening up beds, calling in staff and activating extra street outreach workers.
"They'll be going around to the places where they know people sometimes go to get out of the weather, and they'll be offering rides to shelter, rides to ... assessment and referral centres..." she said.
Peter Noehammer, Toronto's director of transportation services, said the city has 200 salt trucks ready to go, and, once the snow reaches a certain accumulation, 600 snow plows.
He warned drivers to keep the difficult weather in mind, noting the morning rush hour could be difficult.
"It's going to be very tricky and slippery, and we do ask that people exercise a lot of caution," he said. "Drive according to the weather conditions, avoid unnecessary trips on the roadways. We do encourage people to take transit, if that's possible."
The heaviest snow is expected to fall through the overnight hours, likely impacting the morning commute on Friday.
"Heavy snow, blowing snow and low visibility are all expected for the morning rush hour, so drivers should definitely give themselves lots of extra time," adds Gina Ressler, another meteorologist at The Weather Network.
The snow, heavy at times, is expected to continue into Friday as the powerful system passes just south of the Great Lakes.
"By Friday afternoon the accumulation will lighten up in the GTA, but will continue to hit eastern Ontario," says Ressler. "Strong winds however, will continue to bring blowing snow right across the region."
Wind gusts up to 60 km/h are likely across south-central Ontario, especially for areas along the shores of Lake Ontario.
An Alberta clipper is classified as a fast-moving winter storm that originates east of the Rockies and sweeps south and eastward across southern Canada and the Upper Midwest States.
It is usually weaker than most winter storms and because it moves so quickly doesn't tend to drop much snow.
Alberta clippers are often followed by a surge of Arctic air that can produce blowing snow and blizzard-like conditions.
Use Satellites and Radar to track weather systems in your neighbourhood. You can also tune into The Weather Network on TV for the latest updates on this storm.