The Greater Toronto Area is getting hit with its first major snowfall of the season — and conditions this afternoon could make for a messy evening commute.
Environment Canada says between 10 and 15 centimetres of snow could fall in the city. Residents who live closer to Lake Ontario could see even more in isolated pockets.
Snowfall started this morning and is expected to continue throughout the day, with the most intense periods forecast for this afternoon and early evening, the national weather agency says. Wind gusts of up to 40 km/h could significantly reduce visibility for drivers and cyclists.
Vincent Sferrazza, director of operations and maintenance for Toronto’s transportation services, said the city had to summon its winter operations equipment, like salt trucks and plows, early this year. He expects about 13 centimetres of snow will fall throughout the day.
“The is the first time we’ve seen 13 centimetres on a single day this early in the season,” he said.
In 2007, about 15 centimetres fell over a two-day period between November 7 and 8. Sferrazza said despite the early hit of snow, the city will be ready.
“We are fully equipped to tackle today’s snow event,” he told CBC Toronto.
Crews began brining major roads Sunday night. The Gardiner Expressway and some high-traffic roads like University Avenue and Yonge Street had been salted by about noon Monday.
In all, the city will deploy some 600 pieces of equipment to help clear streets and sidewalks. Sferrazza said that plows will head out once about eight centimetres of snow has fallen.
“Our first priority is to hit all the major roads, and then we will tackle all the local roads as well,” he added.
The snow will likely taper off by Tuesday but colder temperatures will settle in. Monday should see a high of –2 C, with the mercury plunging to –8 C overnight. It will feel more like –15 with the wind chill on Tuesday morning.
A winter weather travel advisory has been issued for the region, with quickly changing and deteriorating conditions likely through the evening rush hour.
Even more snow is expected west of Toronto. Hamilton will likely be the hardest hit, with snowfall between 25 and 30 centimetres forecast. Niagara region, too, could see up to 25 centimetres.
The Halton District School Board and the Halton Catholic District School Board have cancelled their transportation services for the day. Schools are open.
Air travellers are being advised to check on the status of their flights before heading out to airports.