A major winter storm that has hit the U.S. Plains states is threatening to dump up to 25 centimetres of snow on parts of Canada over the Christmas holidays.
Environment Canada issued special weather statements Wednesday telling travellers heading out on the highways or to airports in Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec of possibly harsh winter conditions due to the storm that developed over Texas.
Parts of southern Manitoba could get 15-25 cm of snow Thursday into Saturday from a storm that will track northeast towards Iowa by Christmas Day.
The heaviest snow and strongest winds will likely remain south of the U.S. border and senior climatologist David Phillips notes the snow won’t all fall in one day in southern Manitoba, so it doesn’t reach warning criteria.
Snow was to begin in northwestern Ontario on Wednesday night. About 10-20 cm is expected near Ontario’s borders with Manitoba and Minnesota by Christmas morning, while other northwestern Ontario regions can expect 5-10 cm by then.
“It’s a major system. It’s spread misery across Utah and Arizona and Colorado, Kansas and it’s going to provide some snow to some areas, particularly the northern areas, but it’s also going to bring some rain to southwestern Ontario because of some rather warm temperatures,” said Phillips.
“This system is tapping moisture from the Gulf of Mexico and it’s going to effect the area.”
Rain should begin in southwestern Ontario early Christmas morning, spread to the Golden Horseshoe and southern Georgian Bay that afternoon and move into some eastern Ontario regions Christmas night. But freezing rain might occur in pockets.
Freezing rain, ice pellets and snow arrives in eastern Ontario and the National Capital Region on Boxing Day, while western and central Quebec could see mixed precipitation and strong winds Boxing Day and the day after.
Most of Canada will have a white Christmas, but about one-quarter of Canadians will celebrate with a green Christmas.
Areas that won’t have at least 2 cm of snow on the ground Christmas morning are Vancouver Island, southern B.C., southern Ontario areas including Windsor, Niagara, London, Kitchener, Hamilton, Toronto and along the north shore of Lake Erie, as well as St. John’s, N.L., Phillips said.
Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island may get more snow into Thursday but also rain, so Phillips doubts snow will stick around for Christmas.
Northern and central B.C., all of the Prairies, northern, central and eastern Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, most of Newfoundland and Labrador, Nunavut, the Northwest Territories and the Yukon will have a white Christmas, he said.
Travel on Christmas Day for most of the country should be a breeze.
“Across all of the Prairies, B.C., the far north, the Maritimes, Quebec, eastern Ontario and Newfoundland and Labrador, it will be a weather-free day on Christmas Day,” said Phillips.
“The inlaws won’t be staying over because the storm stayed. There’s a little bit of travelling that people have to do on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day will probably be all right, no problem moving about.”
Among Canada’s major cities, Ottawa, which currently has 32 cm on the ground, will have the whitest Christmas while Whistler, B.C., will be the resort with the most snow, with the current measurement at the Roundhouse at 247 cm.
Ottawa is snowier than Quebec City, Montreal, Winnipeg, Edmonton and even the North Pole.
“The North Pole has about 10-15 cm of snow on the ground right now and the weather looks pretty good for flying in and out of the North Pole,” said Phillips.