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Potential for major ice storm in southern Ontario Thursday night


Staff writers

April 11, 2013 — Winter hangs on with a vengeance across southern Ontario. A major storm pushing through the region is resulting in slick road conditions, school bus cancellations and air travel advisories.

Potential ice accretion
Potential ice accretion

Tune into The Weather Network on TV for live updates on this storm.

A stationary low pressure system has resulted in a soggy week across much of southern Ontario. 

Between 30-60 mm of rain has already been recorded in some places, along with isolated thunderstorms reported earlier in the week. 

Now, colder air from the north, combined with a low from the south, has resulted in a messy mix over much of southern Ontario. 

A fresh layer of snow and ice pellets in a swath from Toronto towards Lake Huron challenged some drivers during the morning commute Thursday. A coating of 2 to 4 cm of snow was reported in some places. 

Forecasters say there will be a break in the steady precipitation throughout the afternoon hours, before the main precipitation arrives Thursday night. 

Widespread freezing rain and ice pellets are expected through the evening and overnight.

"Upwards of two centimetres of ice accretion is possible in some areas Thursday, which would make this a major ice storm," says Chris Scott, a meteorologist at The Weather Network. 

Scott adds that this depends heavily on temperature as many locations will hover around the freezing mark. 

"If we're closer to zero, the freezing rain won't stick as much, if we're closer to -1 or -2, we've got major problems."

Locations inland from Lake Ontario between the 403 and Georgian Bay have the chance to see more significant icing with this storm.

Snow and ice pellets expected north of Toronto
Snow and ice pellets expected north of Toronto

According to Environment Canada, significant ice accumulation combined with northeast winds gusting to 60 km/h could result in downed tree limbs and power lines.

"It's a remarkable storm in the fact that we don't get these kinds of storms that often in April," said Peter Kimbell, a warning preparedness meteorologist with Environment Canada.

"The last time we saw a storm like this in April was probably 10 years ago."

Environment Canada and Ontario Provincial police were advising motorists to brace for poor travel conditions and icy roads, in particular near and west of the Greater Toronto Area to Lake Huron.

"The most intense precipitation is actually going to be likely this evening and overnight," said Kimbell, warning that the weather would likely ease Thursday afternoon before intensifying later in the day.

The wintry mix prompted several school boards across the region to cancel school buses early Thursday. 

Hundreds of flights at Toronto's Pearson International Airport were also cancelled before 6 am, many of them being local flights to other Canadian destinations. 

Passengers are encouraged to call ahead to check the status of their flight before leaving for the airport. 

While winter storms in April aren't completely unheard of, they can catch some people off guard. Officials are reminding motorists to leave plenty of extra time and adjust their driving habits accordingly.

"We're advising people to be careful as it is the tail end of winter. People may already be used to the warmer weather and dry road conditions, but with the recent rain and colder temperatures, road conditions will be slippery," says Peter Noehammer, Toronto's director of transportation services. 

Noehammer adds that between 40-50 salt trucks are available for this latest storm versus the usual 200 the city has for the winter.

"It is a reduced capacity we have at this time of year, simply because the contracts we have with our winter contractors have expired." 

A heavy rainfall warning is in effect for parts of southern Ontario, including Windsor with upwards of 50 mm possible through Friday.

Places like Peterborough and Barrie could see significant snow accumulation, along with ice pellets and winds gusting to 60 km/h.

Be sure to plan your trip ahead of time using an advisor like The Travelers Network.

Tweet your storm updates to @weathernetwork using the hashtags #onstorm and #twn.

With files from the Canadian Press

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