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Cold winds generate squalls in Ontario

Expected snowfall totals
Expected snowfall totals

Jill Colton, staff writer

February 10, 2011 — Snow squalls are revving up across parts of Ontario, generating lake-effect snow and resulting in poor driving visibilities.

Soldiers help to push  out a stranded woman
Soldiers help to push out a stranded woman

Snow squalls are rolling off the Great Lakes and they're resulting in messy winter driving conditions in parts of Ontario.

“Lake-effect snow is blowing across regions east of Georgian Bay,” notes Patrick Cool a meteorologist at The Weather Network.

Environment Canada says the strongest squall extends from just north of Parry Sound towards Huntsville. Up to 15 cm of snow is possible through Friday.

“And you can almost guarantee that whiteout conditions will persist,” warns Cool. The combination of intense snowfall and fierce winds are leading to hazardous winter travel on the roads.

Officials closed Highway 21 in both directions between Port Elgin and Goderich Wednesday afternoon due to the poor conditions. And on Thursday, two Canadian soldiers stopped to help a lady stranded on the 400 near Coldwater after she slid into a snowbank.

Motorists are urged to monitor highway conditions before venturing outside.

Traffic can be held up when conditions deteriorate
Traffic can be held up when conditions deteriorate

The lake-effect snow season tends to fall between late November and December. Cool says the reason for this recent activity relates to the temperature.

“The lakes are the warmest during the snow season. If you combine this with cold air, the difference is so vast the end result is memorable squalls.”

So why are we seeing squalls so late into the season? Cool says there are two key factors.

“1) The water is frigid. 2) The air temperature is bitterly cold. Ultimately, the difference is big enough to generate squalls at this time of year. Additionally, the majority of the upper Great Lakes aren't frozen right now, so that's what's helping to generate the lake-effect snow,” explains Cool.

Intense squalls have contributed to several tragic highway collisions this winter.

Back in January, a fatal 40-vehicle pileup during snow squalls and harsh winds near Orillia left a woman dead.

In mid-December, part of highway 402 was shut down between Sarnia and Strathroy because of zero visibility from an intense snowfall. Over three hundred vehicles were trapped for hours on the snowy highway.

Stay up to date on the conditions in your area by checking out The Weather Network on TV. The National forecast comes up at the top and bottom of each hour.

You can also sign up to receive weather forecasts and public alerts on your mobile phone.

With files from Matt Casey and Andrea Stockton

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