A significant winter storm that has already forced the closure of schools around the GTA and disrupted some Torontonians’ holiday travel plans could take several days to recover from.
At a news conference held at city hall on Friday, Mayor John Tory issued the warning, stating that due of the city’s overnight downpour of rain, employees had been unable to salt roadways as they normally would in preparation for a significant snowfall.
Much once the snow stops, he warned that Saturday’s wind gusts of up to 90 km per hour might make cleanup activities even more difficult.
“People should be on notice with this storm, if it lives up to expectations, the clearing of snow will likely be a multi-day event,” Tory said. “That is not because there won’t be passes made through the different neighbourhoods right away but with the winds that are expected, for example, the snow will blow back onto the streets and will require plowing to be done again.”
Environment Canada says that Toronto will receive five to 15 centimetres of total snowfall accumulation between Friday and Saturday morning.
It is also warning of “potential flash freeze” conditions as temperatures plummet on Friday morning and the rain gives way to snow.
The weather agency says that conditions will be even more treacherous in southern Niagara, Niagara Falls and Welland, where it is warning of “crippling blizzard conditions” with 25 to 50 centimtres of snow accumulation and winds that could reach 120 kilometres an hour.
All of the publicly-funded school boards in the Greater Toronto Area have cancelled classes for the day, taking the somewhat rare step of making the announcement the day before.
Meanwhile, the city has positioned snow removal equipment at strategic locations across the city so that crews are able to quickly begin plowing and salting the roads as soon as conditions worsen.
There is also sufficient staff on standby to operate all 1,100 pieces of snow removal equipment in the city’s fleet simultaneously, if necessary.
“All my contractors have confirmed to me that there is staff available for all equipment so that when we make the call, they will be ready to go,” Toronto’s Director of Transportation Operations and Maintenance Vincent Sferrazza told reporters. “Having said that, this is going to be a multi-day, multi-round event. We anticipate that this will continue into next week, with the vast majority of the work happening today, tomorrow and into Sunday.”
The city is asking residents to avoid parking on local roads during and after the snowfall “if possible” in order to help expedite the cleanup efforts.
So far the impact on public transit has been minimal but Tory said that the TTC is running parallel bus service along the Scarborough RT route in order to account for its “likely closure. He said that 41 bus stops on hills have also been taken out of service as a precaution.
“I encourage Torontonians to watch for updates from Environment Canada and to please be safe. The best thing probably that you can do over the next day or two or three is to stay home,” he said.