A state of emergency has been declared near the southwestern Ontario community of Sarnia, where police and emergency crews are trying to rescue hundreds of stranded drivers from a snow-covered highway.
Emergency Management Ontario also issued what it called a “red alert” for the area from Sarnia to London because heavy snowfall was causing zero visibility. The red alert has since been dropped.
Highway 402 was shut down late Sunday night due to collisions and pile-ups. Ever since, police have been using special vehicles and snowmobiles to get to stranded motorists.
Military helicopters are now assisting in the search and rescue, as well.
At one point, more than 360 vehicles needed assistance on the 402. Drivers are being told to stay in their cars until rescuers get to them. Sarnia police are also urging people in the community to stay off all roads in the area because of the snowy, icy conditions.
Camera Operator Mark Rozitas has been in the thick of the storm, and was there for the search and rescue Monday night.
“I went with a farmer on a large tractor and we were able to get through the drifts and pull some people out. I gave all the spare fuel I had in the red can to one lady who had no cell phone and very little fuel left,” Rozitas told The Weather Network. “We had extremely high wind, heavy snow, blizzard conditions, simply could not see what side of the road you were on, many people stuck in cars and trucks.”
Rozitas says these are some of the worst squall conditions he has seen in his many years covering active weather.
“I'd say it's the worst blizzard conditions I've experienced. Came close a few years ago in Port Elgin, but yesterday was the worst I've ever seen. No matter how many flashing lights, vehicles and people simply can't be seen in the sections being hit hard.”
The good news it that snow squalls are expected to taper around Sarnia today.
“They'll continue through the morning hours, then shift east toward London in the afternoon,” says Brian Dillon, a meteorologist at The Weather Network. “Strathroy, on the other hand, will be in the thick of it again today.”
Over the weekend, a low pressure system from the United States swept over Ontario and Quebec. It prompted snowfall, freezing rain and flash freeze warnings across the provinces. That system is now bringing stormy weather to the Maritimes.
To stay up-to-date on current weather conditions in Sarnia, Ontario, be sure to check the local forecast. You can also tune in to The Weather Network on TV for coverage of this state of emergency.