Toronto is under an extreme cold warning one day after being hit by a major winter storm that crews are still cleaning up from. 

Toronto is under an extreme cold warning one day after being hit by a major winter storm that crews are still cleaning up from.

The snow started falling in the GTA at around noon on Monday and continued well into the overnight hours.

Environment Canada says that 33 centimetres of snow had fallen at Pearson International Airport by early Tuesday morning with about 20 centimetres of snow falling in downtown Toronto.

The snowfall totals outside the city varied from about 13 centimetres in Durham Region to as much as 26 centimetres in Hamilton.

In the wake of the snow, Environment Canada says that “a frigid arctic air mass and strong winds” will hover over the city with wind chill values of – 30 to – 35 possible overnight.

The heavy snowfall late Monday and early Tuesday morning created dangerous driving conditions and resulted in numerous school and bus cancellations across the GTA.

At one point on Monday night, police closed the northbound lanes of the Don Valley Parkway in order to remove a number of stalled vehicles from the roadway and to allow plows to clear the surface of snow and ice.

The highway eventually reopened just before 5 a.m.

Ontario Provincial Police Sgt. Kerry Schmidt told CP24 on Tuesday morning that there have been about 300 collisions reported on OPP-patrolled roads in the GTA over the last 24 hours, including a jackknifed tractor trailer on Hwy. 401 that has resulted in a full closure of the westbound lanes at Thickson Road in Whitby and a partial closure of the eastbound lanes.

He said that closure will remain in effect throughout the morning rush and into the afternoon hours as crews carefully offload some hazardous materials that the truck was carrying.

“The cleanup crews tells me that if they try to pick up this trailer the way it is sitting it could very easily breach and we could have a far bigger mess and an environmental disaster here on the highway,” he said.

Nearly 400 collisions on Toronto roads

In addition to the hundreds of collisions that occurred on OPP-patrolled roads over the last 24 hours, there was also hundreds more on city roads.

Toronto Police Sgt. Brett Moore said that police have responded to about 100 collisions since snow started falling on Monday morning and have received reports of 389 other collisions, in which the drivers made their way to a collision reporting centre.

He said that those numbers are high but not altogether unusual for such a significant snow event.

“Folks think that if they have snow tires and maybe a four-wheel vehicle that they can just plow through the snow and get where they need to go at normal speeds. But the problem is you are way outdriving your ability to be safe on the roads,” he said. “We have all seen that person sort of whiz by slow-moving traffic and inevitably that car spins out, backs up everybody else and it is all because the person was going way too fast for the conditions.”

Crews working to clear roads

By 5 a.m., city crews had completed three rounds of plowing on main roads but many local roads remained unplowed.

The city has said that plowing on local streets began at midnight but could take until 6 p.m. to complete.

As part of plowing operations, all 1,100 pieces of snow removal equipped that the city has access to have been deployed.

“It is all hands on decks for sure. We have been consistently plowing our main roads and expressways since about 9 p.m. last night and we started on the side roads at around midnight,” Superintendent of Road Operations Mark Mills told CP24 on Tuesday morning. “We will be working around the clock until we get this cleaned up.”

Mills said that the first round of sidewalk clearing on high volume routes was completed overnight with a second round completed on Tuesday morning.

He said due to the volume of snowfall crews will also have to make a determination on whether they need to remove it entirely from some busy roadways.

“What we will have to do after this event is look at our main arterial roads and expressways and see if we are at a point now where we may have to literally pick up some of the snow and truck it away somewhere,” he said. “I don’t think we are at that point yet but we will assess after the storm.”

TTC service being impacted by snow

The messy weather created issues for public transit riders as well as drivers.

On Monday afternoon, a decision was made to close the Scarborough RT due to blowing snow and the line remained closed on Tuesday with no timeline for the restoration of service.

The TTC also briefly suspended subway service between Woodbine and Warden stations on Line 2 due to blowing snow that buried switches along the above-ground potion of the line that begins east of Main Station.

“We have crews on the ground but they are not able to keep the switches clear,” TTC Spokesperson Stuart Green told CP24 earlier on Tuesday morning.

In addition to the issues impacting service on Lines 2 and 3, Green said that service on surface routes is also slower than normal due to poor road conditions.

Overnight, three buses got stuck travelling up a hill at Wynford Road north of Eglinton Avenue and Green said that as of 7 a.m. only about 95 per cent of buses were in service.

He said that due to the conditions the TTC has cancelled all of its express bus routes and will use the buses assigned to those routes to supplement service on its main routes.

“Our surface routes are impacted as any other vehicle on the road would be,” he said.

Dozens of flights cancelled

GO Transit says that there have been minimal delays of up to 10 minutes along its Lakeshore East line due to the weather with more significant delays of up to 30 minutes affecting its bus routes.

Operations at Pearson International Airport have also been affected by the weather.

On Monday 33 per cent of all flights were cancelled due to the snow and as of 10 a.m. on Tuesday 13 per cent of departing flights and 16 per cent of arriving flights had also been cancelled.

“Our snow removal is continuing and we are basically in a recovery period as we get back to normal winter operations,” Great Toronto Airports Authority spokesperson Maria Ganogiannis told CP24 on Tuesday morning. “If you are travelling this morning we strongly recommend you check the status of your flight with your airline before leaving for the airport.”