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Strong winds wreak havoc as southern Ontario winter storm continues

Last Updated Apr 15, 2018 at 11:16 pm EDT

More than 50,000 people were without power and one busy Toronto airport had to shut down on Sunday as southern and central Ontario were battered by another day of freezing rain and ice pellets.

Environment Canada issued weather warnings for the entirety of the region for the second day in a row, advising that strong winds could exacerbate already dangerous conditions.

Ice build-up combined with wind gusts of up to 90 km/h were responsible for a number of fallen trees and broken limbs which took down power lines and caused power outages across the city of Toronto.

As of 10:45 p.m. Sunday night, Toronto Hydro said approximately 20,000 customers were without power.

Provincial power utility Hydro One said around 39,000 customers were without power in its service area.

At one point Sunday night, Toronto Fire said more than one-third of the total fire trucks and crews in the city were engaged in emergency calls.

The TTC was forced to shut down Line 3 (Scarborough RT) because of ice build up on the third rail. It’s uncertain at this time if the line will reopen in time for the morning commute. Shuttle buses were operating between Kennedy and McCowan stations.

TTC spokesperson Brad Ross said they would be storing subway trains in tunnels overnight to ensure that doors are not frozen for the start of service on Monday morning. Storm trains would be deployed throughout the night in open cut areas, spraying glycol on the third rail to keep it from freezing.

Environment Canada said the freezing rain and ice pellets would change to rain later Sunday as temperatures rose, which could cause flooding in some areas.

There were reports of multiple homes having been flooded in Stoney Creek as waves from Lake Ontario crashed over the break wall.

The Toronto and Region Conservation Authority warns that some creeks and rivers could flood due to the heavy rain.

“It is difficult to determine the extent of flooding possible, so TRCA advises the public to stay alert to changing conditions,” read a statement on the organization’s website.

Toronto’s downtown Billy Bishop airport cancelled all departing flights and only received one arrival all day on Sunday, while more than 600 flights were cancelled at Pearson International Airport.

Dozens of flights were also cancelled or delayed at Ottawa International Airport.

Ontario Provincial Police said there were roughly 750 crashes on highways surrounding Toronto on Saturday, and there had been more than 700 more by Sunday evening. None of the crashes were fatal.

The mixture of freezing rain and ice pellets made for nasty road conditions, particularly in the Greater Toronto Area, said Chris Scott, chief meteorologist with The Weather Network.

“These ice pellets have acted like very dense snow on the road,” he said. “That’s created treacherous driving conditions across much of southern Ontario, but especially in the GTA.”

Scott said areas near Lake Erie were hit with the most freezing rain and ice pellets, while the region around St. Thomas, Ont., had the most power outages.

“It’s rare to get such a winter storm this late in the season,” said Scott, noting that southern Ontario hasn’t seen such an intense ice storm in April in over a decade.