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Toronto gears up for a winter wallop


Blowing snow could reduce visibilities
Blowing snow could reduce visibilities

Andrea Stockton, staff writer

February 1, 2011 — Torontonians are bracing for the first significant snowfall since 2008.

Toronto hasn't seen more than 20 cm of snow at once in nearly three years
Toronto hasn't seen more than 20 cm of snow at once in nearly three years

Winter is far from over and a huge storm that's set to blast southern Ontario will have residents remembering what the frosty season is all about.

“This storm will be the most intense storm we've seen in the Greater Toronto Area in a couple of years,” says Chris Scott, a meteorologist at The Weather Network. There will be a little bit of snow on Tuesday, but “the main event is Tuesday night, after midnight and through the morning hours on Wednesday,” notes Scott.

The city of Toronto could see up to 30 cm of snow with this system and that means the morning commute will be a slow and dangerous one. Commuters waking up in Toronto could be faced with up to 14 cm of snow on the ground with more expected to fall throughout the morning.

“The worst conditions likely will be waking up Wednesday morning. Looking out the window you may think the world's come to an end, it looks pretty bad. It won't be that bad for the whole storm, but at its peak with an east wind blowing off Lake Ontario, this is going to be very intense,” warns Scott.

While the snow is expected to taper by Wednesday evening, city crews plan to work around the clock to clear streets and try to get things back to normal. Peter Noehammer is the Director of Transportation with the city of Toronto and he says crews will be out in full force.

“This storm is shaping up to be the largest one so far this winter. ..And we're prepared. We have our equipment ready, our contractors ready and our operators standing by.”

Conditions expected to deteriorate on the roads
Conditions expected to deteriorate on the roads

Still, Noehammer adds that when an intense storm like this rolls through, it's a challenge to control conditions on the roads. Main roads and highways will be the number one priority, but it may take more time to clear and open local side streets in the area.

“It looks like it will be difficult to not only keep the roads open and clear for the commuters, but with the snow continuing to fall, visibility will be reduced as well.”

And that's why police are warning drivers to be prepared. Packing a survival kit for winter driving is always a good idea and adjusting your driving habits when it's snowing is crucial. Motorists are also advised to avoid any unnecessary travel when conditions are risky.

“We do encourage people to try and work from home if they have that option, to take transit if they can to reduce the number of vehicles on the road and obviously leave lots of extra time and drive with caution,” says Noehammer.

Those who do have to venture out on the roads tomorrow should be familiar with some winter driving techniques, says Tom Reynolds, traffic and transit specialist at The Weather Network.

For example, shifting a vehicle with an automatic transmission into neutral when coming to a stop on slick or snow-covered roads will prevent the wheels from pushing the vehicle forward and help it stop more quickly.

If the vehicle goes into a skid, don't brake; try to steer out of the situation.

“Look where you want to go,” says Reynolds. “If you look towards the ditch, you'll end up in the ditch. If you want to go back onto the road, look towards the road and you will steer in that direction almost automatically.”

The most important thing is to slow down and be prepared to stop from time to time, especially in whiteout conditions, which are possible tomorrow.

“It is crucial you get over to the side of the road or get off on some side road where you are safe until the wind slows down a little bit.”

With this storm potentially being the largest snowfall in two years, many people will be shoveling out from higher amounts of snow than they are used to. With shoveling comes the risk of injury or heart attack if not done properly. Toronto EMS personnel are bringing in extra workers to handle an expected increase in emergency calls. The last time the city had a major snow event was on February 6, 2008, when 30.4 cm fell.

For more details as this storm develops, be sure to check your local forecast.

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

With files from Matt Casey and Alexandra Pope

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