Residents of a large swath of southern Ontario were grappling with heavy snowfall on Monday as a winter storm triggered school closures, cancellations and a police recall to avoid travel unnecessary.
Environment Canada’s weather alerts ranged from snowfall warnings to storm warnings. Toronto and Hamilton were under a blizzard warning at one point early Monday, but as of 11:30 a.m., forecasters had major urban centers under a winter storm warning, with between 40 and 60 centimeters of snowfall expected.
“Local blowing snow due to winds up to 60 km/h which will significantly reduce visibility,” the storm warning for Toronto said.
The City of Toronto has urged people to stay home if they can.
UPDATE: The eastbound Gardiner has fully reopened and westbound lanes have opened from Jarvis Street. The Don Valley Parkway remains closed, according to police. https://t.co/ZvZKK9Ty3V
Earlier, the Toronto District School Board said on Twitter that “all schools will switch to remote learning“Because of the weather conditions. Toronto Catholic District School Board made a similar move, saying: “Due to weather, all school bus transportation has been canceled and schools are closed for in-person learning today. Staff and students will continue to remain engaged in distance learning at home.”
The closures weren’t just affecting Toronto public schools — some post-secondary schools canceled in-person classes on Monday, and library branches were also closed due to weather conditions.
Toronto Public Health also announced that COVID-19 vaccination clinics would be closed, with people being asked to book online.
The most recent alert for the city of hamilton also showed a winter storm warning, with the same amount of snow expected.
“The rapid accumulation of snow will make travel difficult. Road closures are possible,” the statement warned.
The Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board announced early Monday that there would be no in-person or distance learning. For Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board students, in-class classes have been canceled, but some remote learning has continued.
“Transportation is canceled and HWCDSB schools are closed for in-person learning today, Monday January 17, due to inclement weather,” the Hamilton Catholic Board said in a tweet. “Virtual Elementary School remains open. In-person students can expect to have asynchronous assignments posted by 10 a.m.”
In the niagara region, where some areas were under a winter storm warning, the District School Board of Niagara declared a snow day, with remote and in-person learning pending.
“2022 begins strangely” the council said in a tweet earlier Monday. “We know many of you were ready to go to school today, but it’s officially a long weekend, so we really hope you enjoy it!”
the Niagara Catholic District School Board also canceled in-person school and virtual elementary school.
Winter storm warnings were in effect for parts of Waterloo Wellington, according to the updated forecast messages. Winter storm warnings were also in effect for parts of Halton and Peel regions, as well as parts of york and Durham Regions.
In the London area, there have been school bus cancellations due to winter weather.
In Ottawa, forecasters expected a total snowfall of between 25 and 40 centimeters.
“Heavy snowfall with snowfall peaks of 7-10cm per hour this morning,” said a statement released around 9:30 a.m. ET.
Blizzard warnings were in effect for parts of the capital region, with the worst conditions expected between Monday morning and noon. City officials held a noon Monday briefing and warned it would take days to clean up, given the scale of the storm.
“Our educators will do their best tomorrow,” the Ottawa Catholic Council said in a statement Sunday announcing the shift to distance learning. “However, most had planned an in-person learning day, so a transition to a full synchronous learning day may need to be accommodated.”
Community immunization clinics have also been closed in Ottawa due to weather conditions. Ottawa Public Health said on Twitter that staff would contact those affected by the closure.
Snowfall in southern Ontario has added a wrinkle to the province’s already controversial school reopening plan.
The province switched to online learning after the winter break, so schools not closed by snow will reopen for the first time in nearly a month.
Ontario isn’t the only province feeling the effects of winter. In Quebec, some school boards were closing due to weather conditions.
Stay off the roads if you can, says OPP officer
Ontario Provincial Police Sergeant Kerry Schmidt told CBC’s Heather Hiscox on Monday that people who can stay home should do so.
“It’s a mess here,” said Schmidt, who was on Highway 401 near Pearson International Airport.
Vehicles spin in circles and lose control, he said.
Plows are trying to keep up, he said, but have been hampered by snowfall and traffic volumes.
The Ontario Provincial Police Traffic Safety Division reminded drivers on Sunday evening to make sure to clean their cars thoroughly if they have to hit the road.
If you need to travel, expect delays
Toronto’s transit operator warned of delays on Monday, saying bus and streetcar routes were affected by snow.
“Customers will experience longer than normal wait and travel times,” the Toronto Transit Commission said on its website.
Meanwhile, on Queen West in Toronto, just past Dufferin Street.
Four buses are stuck in the snow.
Drivers stand outside their buses to direct traffic. Quite the scene here. pic.twitter.com/XOnQhxlz3C
Some GO Transit Lines serving the densely populated Greater Toronto Area were also reporting delays.
Air Canada, meanwhile, issued an update stating that flights through major airports in Ontario and Quebec “may be affected by anticipated winter operating conditions.”
Dozens of flights to and from Toronto Pearson Airport were also delayed or canceled this morning, according to the airport’s website.