The cleanup from the biggest winter storm to hit the city in five years could last through Saturday morning, according to one city official.

Director of Transportation Services Peter Noehammer made the comment to CP24 late Friday afternoon, as snow continued to blanket the city.

“We have started plowing the side streets but it is going to take us about 18 hours to get through all of them once and we may have to come out a second time depending on the amount of snow involved,” Noehammer said. “That means we will be busy plowing tonight, overnight and then we will reassess things Saturday.”

As of 9:18 p.m., 26 centimetres of snow had fallen at Pearson International Airport since Thursday night.

The last time Toronto had a single snowfall of more than 16 cm was Feb. 6, 2008. The total accumulation for that day was 30.4 cm.

“We have about 600 road plows out. We sent them first to the expressways and main roads because only a slight accumulation causes a lot more impact on those routes and then they go through the side streets,” Noehammer said. “Really, we are busy on all roads now.”

Ontario Provincial Police are urging motorists to stay off the roads as the mammoth winter storm continues to batter the region.

The snow has created slick roads and dangerous driving conditions.

“It is not very often that we tell people to stay home, but we are right now,” OPP Sgt. Dave Woodford told CP24 Friday afternoon. “It has become very treacherous out there and we don’t want people to get hurt or involved in a fatal motor vehicle collision. There is just no sense in being out there.”

According to Woodford, Ontario Provincial Police have responded to 350 collisions in the Greater Toronto Area since midnight, most of them weather-related.

Though the majority of the accidents have not resulted in serious injuries, one three-vehicle crash near Pickering did claim the life of a 49-year-old man Friday morning.

A single-vehicle accident in the eastbound lanes of Highway 401 near Prescott also resulted in the death of one person.

“The plows are out there doing what they can with every piece of equipment they have and really you just have to avoid the highways completely at this time,” Woodford told CP24.

Police warned of a slow, hazardous commute Friday morning as they urged people to stay home or take public transit as an alternative to getting behind the wheel.

According to TTC Spokesperson Brad Ross, most subways and streetcars are running according to schedule, however some buses are stalled on city roads.

“The subway and the SRT and our streetcars are all operating well, but we do have some buses that have been unable to traverse various hills around the city and are stuck for lack of a better word,” Ross told CP24 Friday afternoon. “It is just a condition of the weather conditions we have today and we are diverting around those situations.”

Ross said the majority of buses having issues are in the Yonge Street and York Mills area.

“It is particularly difficult there and there are a number of routes and a number of buses that haven’t been able to make either of the two hills,” he said.

Brutal morning commute

At one point during the morning, vehicles in the Gardiner Expressway’s eastbound lanes were travelling at just 20 kilometres-per-hour because of the conditions, said Toronto police Const. Clint Stibbe.

CAA received 2,800 calls to assist motorists who were involved in collisions or became stuck in the snow. The current wait time for service is about two hours.

“If you don’t have to be on the road, maybe wait out this morning storm and make your travel plans for later in the day,” said CAA spokeswoman Silvana Aceto.

The heaviest snow occurred along the Highway 401 corridor from London to the GTA during the morning commute, Environment Canada Senior Climatologist Dave Phillips told CP24.

Strong winds of up to 35 kilometres-per-hour are whipping up freshly-fallen snow and reducing visibility to near-zero in some spots, Phillips added.

“The winds have picked up and I have seen zero visibility at some places in the GTA already and with the snow ending this afternoon or this evening the winds are going to stay around and create snow drifts and poor visibility,” Phillips said. “People need to be well aware of the fact that the storm still presents issues even after the snow stops.”

According to Phillips, the snow will end west of the GTA late in the afternoon, in the Toronto area in the evening, and overnight in eastern Ontario.

After the storm passes, it will head toward the northeastern U.S. states, where it is expected to merge with another winter storm and create blizzard-like conditions.

For those who are scheduled to catch a flight, they are being asked to confirm their flight status before heading to the airport. As of 4 p.m., about 53 per cent of all arriving flights and 62 per cent of all departing flights at Pearson International Airport had been cancelled.

GO Transit is operating on an adjusted winter schedule and warns of possible delays on all routes.

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