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Winter-like weather crosses Ontario snow belts

Lisa Varano, staff writer

December 5, 2010 — Ontario's snow belts live up to the nickname as early December gives a preview of winter.

Places like Strathroy, Grand Bend and Goderich see heavy snow
Places like Strathroy, Grand Bend and Goderich see heavy snow

It's been snowing, and it's going to keep snowing, in the snow belts of central and southwestern Ontario. The forecast calls for lake-effect snow, snow squalls, sudden whiteouts and windchill for much of this week.

By Sunday evening, areas near Lake Huron and Georgian Bay were buried under about 30 cm of snow as strong snow squalls took aim at places west of London and Barrie.

And that's just a snapshot of what's in store. By the time the lake-effect snow dies down, the snowfall totals could be significantly higher -- perhaps 60 cm or more by Wednesday.

Blowing snow has made for treacherous driving conditions on the roads. Westbound lanes of Highway 401 in London were closed on Sunday evening because of “multiple collisions,” reports Ontario's Ministry of Transportation. Around the same time, between 15 and 20 cm of snow fell in the London area in just a four-hour period.

According to Environment Canada, a storm system over Quebec and the Maritimes and a ridge of arctic high pressure in the Prairies are creating the perfect ingredients to bring snow to Ontario.

Fresh coating of snow for Collingwood ski hills
Fresh coating of snow for Collingwood ski hills

Brisk northwest gusts of up to 70 km/h will affect much of the region for several days. The powerful winds will also help to drop the temperature. In the Toronto area, the mercury will struggle to reach -2°C, with chill values hovering around -10.

The gusts are picking up moisture over the lakes and producing sudden, heavy snow in narrow areas. That has some people wondering, why is there snow “here,” but not over “there?” Brian Owsiak, a meteorologist at The Weather Network, explains.

“The winds are coming from the northwest, and therefore these snow squalls will affect areas downwind -- particularly areas southeast of Lake Huron and Georgian Bay,” he says.

“There is always going to be a favoured area when we're talking about snow squalls given the shape and size of the lakes.”

A snow squall from Georgian Bay reached down to the Greater Toronto Area on Sunday. Several centimetres of snow should fall in the GTA. The city of Toronto itself could see some accumulation.

With files from Jill Colton

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