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Snow squalls blast southern Ontario

Staff writers

January 4, 2012 — It was a green Christmas for several areas across southern Ontario, but a blast of winter arrived with a vengeance for some earlier this week.

Roads can become treacherous very quickly during snow squalls
Roads can become treacherous very quickly during snow squalls

A sharp cold front swept east across the region Sunday, generating strong southwesterly winds and bringing the recent mild weather to an end. Winds gusted to 75 km/h leaving thousands in the dark Sunday night.

Hydro One reported over 14,000 customers were without power in areas including London, Strathroy, Lucan, Grand Bend, Exeter, and as far north as Seaforth and Clinton. Power was restored for most by 9 pm, although a handful of people were without power until late Monday morning.

Falling temperatures in the wake of the system also created ideal conditions for snow squalls.

Squalls began firing up off Lake Huron and Georgian Bay through the overnight hours and intensified into Monday. Conditions were very poor on a number of secondary highways Monday morning, with blowing, heavy snow reported on sections of Highways 21, 7 and 8.

The 400-series highways were reported to be mostly clear through the Greater Toronto Area, and Pearson International Airport was not reporting any substantial flight delays or cancellations. The drop in temperature however, forced the city of Toronto to issue an extreme cold weather alert.

As the day progressed, whiteout conditions were reported on the 400 between Barrie and King City.

Motorists urged to adjust driving habits in wintery weather
Motorists urged to adjust driving habits in wintery weather

The London area took the biggest hit with over 40 cm of snow recorded at London Airport.

Extremely low visibility lead to several accidents on Highway 401 Monday. London's entire snow fleet was deployed at 11 pm and continued to work through the morning hours.

Blizzard-like conditions forced OPP to temporarily close highway 402 westbound from Centre Road in Strathroy to Kerwood Road Tuesday. Officials say zero visibility lead to multiple vehicle collisions, but no injuries were reported.

Dayna Vettese, a meteorologist at The Weather Network, says snow squalls can be dangerous in their intensity, especially for drivers.

“They can form in narrow bands, meaning you can go from good visibility to near zero visibility in a matter of metres,” she cautions.

While the onset of wintery weather is causing travel headaches for some, ski and snowboard enthusiasts say this is what they've been eagerly waiting for. Hundreds took advantage of the conditions at Boler Mountain on Monday.

Before heading out, be sure to monitor watches and warnings and check the highway conditions.

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