Up to 60 cm of snow possible as historic winter storm hits Toronto, GTA

After Toronto and most of the GTA got hit with a massive snow storm, Premier Doug Ford is helping stranded commuters. Richard Southern reports.

The CityNews Extreme Weather Centre is open and a full list of cancelled buses and school closures can be found here.

A blizzard warning that was in effect for several hours across Toronto and the GTA saw historic snowfall totals that began on Sunday night and continued throughout most of the day on Monday.

Environment Canada issued the blizzard warning calling for up to 60 cm of snow in some parts of the region with peak snowfall rates of 6 to 10 cm per hour through the morning.

A snowy day in Toronto

A driver makes their way on a snow-covered street in Toronto on Jan. 17, 2022. CITYNEWS


Up to 37 cm was already on the ground in some parts of the city by 9 a.m. The worst parts of the storm are expected to taper off by 11 a.m.

It is the first blizzard warning issued in the City of Toronto since 1978.

“A low-pressure system tracking south of the Great Lakes is currently bringing significant snowfall and blizzard conditions to the region,” the national weather service warned. “This will significantly impact the commute this morning.”

Strong northwesterly winds gusting up to 50 km/h will result in areas of poor visibility due to blowing snow. The snow is expected to come to an end sometime by the early evening.

Toronto police were forced to shut down the Gardiner Expressway and the Don Valley Parkway for safety reasons. Police said the closures were put in place to “help move any existing vehicles that are stuck and allow snow plows to clear the routes.”

The driving conditions brought most other major GTA highways to a standstill through the morning commute. OPP Sgt. Kerry Schmidt is advising anyone who can, to stay home and avoid driving.

“Once the highway has been plowed and the system has moved on, then you can venture out if you have to,” says Schmidt.

He says thousands have been unable to move on Highway 401 with plows also getting stuck in the mass accumulation of snow.

“Travel is expected to be very difficult or impossible due to near-zero visibility,” warns Environment Canada. “There may be a significant impact on rush hour traffic in urban areas.”

“If you become stranded in a vehicle do not leave. A single person walking through the snow is harder to find than a stranded car or truck. If you do travel and become lost, remain where you are until the blizzard has passed.”

The TTC is reporting that all bus and streetcar routes are being affected by the snow on the roads with longer than normal travel times. Metrolinx is advising most of its GO buses are experiencing delays of up to 45 minutes.

In one video, as many as 30 civilians can be seen pushing a TTC bus (35 Jane) in Toronto on Monday after the vehicle struggled to get up a hill.

“We’re all looking out for each other,” one person told CityNews. “I have never seen anything quite like this.”

Anyone flying out of Pearson International Airport is being advised to check their flight times before heading to the airport with several flights being postponed due to the severe weather.

The blizzard coincides with what would have been the first day back in the classrooms in a month for students and teachers. The storm has forced GTA school boards to continue with virtual learning or altogether cancel classes. Full list of closures and bus cancellations by school board can be found here.

The City of Toronto reissued its extreme cold weather alert, several warming centres will remain open for vulnerable residents.

The warming centres are located at 129 Peter Street, 5800 Yonge Street, Exhibition Place and Scarborough Civic Centre.

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