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The ice storm sweeping across southern Ontario wrecked havoc in the city on Saturday, causing collisions, closures and delays and it’s not over yet.
It wasn’t a good day for anyone, but drivers especially were feeling the brunt of the vicious weather, with Ontario Provincial Police reporting Saturday evening that they responded to more than 550 crashes in the GTA and surrounding area throughout the day.
We have had some serious collisions, said OPP Sgt. Kerry Schmidt. And the collisions we?re being called to, they are all preventable. Remember, poor weather conditions and poor road conditions do not cause crashes; it is poor driving and driving beyond the conditions.
In Toronto, police spokesperson Katrina Arrogante said they were also experiencing a significant increase in the number of collisions reported. Traffic services tweeted that there had been numerous crashes, with the majority taking place in Scarborough in the early afternoon.
Environment Canada said the ice storm hitting parts of southern Ontario could be historic, potentially downing trees and power lines and leading to widespread outages.
The forecast left much of the region scrambling to prepare for the weekend. Hydro One had extra crews on standby, some universities cancelled weekend exams and airports warned travellers to check their flights online before heading out. Drivers were urged to take extra care, as gusty winds and broken tree limbs could add to the danger on icy roads.
Environment Canada said freezing rain, ice pellets and snow could affect areas stretching from Windsor up to the Muskoka region and east to Ottawa.
Peter Kimbell, a meteorologist with the weather agency, said some communities in southwestern Ontario near Sarnia and Lake Erie could see up to 40 millimetres of freezing rain more than the 30 millimetres that hit Toronto in 2013, when parts of Ontario were left without power for days.
It’s a lot of freezing rain, no question about it, said Kimbell. It certainly has the potential to cause a significant impact.
The bad weather is expected to persist well into Sunday afternoon, when temperatures rise enough for the shower of ice pellets to become rain. Environment Canada warns that significant rainfall throughout the day and night Sunday could create localized flooding. It’s also projected that the rain will continue into Monday, and that the soggy weather may not fully end until after Wednesday.
Toronto is expected to receive 15 millimetres of freezing rain as a result of this weekend’s storm, while Kimbell said areas like Hamilton could see between 20 and 30 millimetres by Sunday.
By late Sunday, Toronto may have a buildup of ice as thick as 20 millimetres, Environment Canada said, an accumulation that when paired with heavy northeast winds of up to 80 km/h could result in significant power outages if tree limbs and power lines are pulled down. Hydro One said Saturday that it has crews ready to respond to outages around the clock.
Festivities for the Toronto Raptors return to the NBA playoffs Saturday afternoon were dampened by the storm, with the team forced to cancel the outdoor viewing party for the first-round opener against the Washington Wizards.
Hundreds of fans usually transform the area outside the Air Canada Centre into Jurassic Park during playoff games, cheering on the team while watching on large outdoor screens in Maple Leaf Square. But with the messy spring storm pressing down on the city, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment issued an advisory Saturday afternoon saying the party has been cancelled.
The square was also closed for the Toronto Maple Leafs playoff game against the Boston Bruins Saturday night.
Some universities and colleges closed this weekend in anticipation of the storm.
Ryerson University cancelled afternoon exams on Saturday, although the morning exams were expected to go ahead as scheduled, and said they were rescheduling for the 21st.
Centennial College and Sheridan College closed their campuses Saturday. York University suspended normal university operations, and affected exams will be rescheduled. Humber College’s open house, classes and campus activities were cancelled, as well as University of Guelph-Humber exams scheduled for Saturday.
The University of Waterloo, McMaster University and Wilfrid Laurier University opted to delay weekend exams due to the weather.
The TTC announced a series of service changes to cope with the storm Saturday. The agency said it had applied antifreeze to overhead streetcar wires and track switches, and had outfitted every fifth streetcars trolley poles with sliders to clear away ice.
Buses were replacing streetcars on St. Clair Ave., as well as on the eastern end of the 501 Queen route, between Greenwood Ave. and Neville Park. The 501 was also diverting along King St. between Connaught Ave. and Dundas West station. Some roads throughout the city were so slick with ice, however, that buses were struggling: at one point on Saturday, at least seven buses were trapped in a lineup in the area of Dufferin St. and Davenport Rd., unable to make it up a hill.
The TTC planned to run storm cars on the subway network on Saturday night to keep power rails free from ice.
Schmidt’s advice for drivers venturing out this weekend: Slow way down, give yourself a lot of space. Whatever space you have behind the vehicle in front of you, double it, because you are going to need that if traffic suddenly stops.
And, if at all possible, stay off the roads completely, Schmidt said. TheStar.com
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