The Toronto Zoo and public libraries closed early, certain after school programs were cancelled and 41 bus stops on big hills were taken out of service as the city saw one of the biggest snowstorms of the winter on Wednesday.
More than a quarter of flights at Pearson Airport were cancelled, the TTC’s website went down and 40 car accidents were reported on GTA highways, but fears that the storm would cause chaos throughout the city did not come to pass as the flurries lightened up in the evening.
One person was even spotted swimming in the Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel’s rooftop pool as the snow streaked down.
By 10:30 p.m., Environment Canada reported that 16 cm of snow had fallen midtown and about 12 centimetres of snow had fallen at Pearson Airport. Environment Canada meteorologist Daniel Liota said Wednesday was Pearson’s snowiest day this winter.
“We didn’t have much competition so far this winter,” Liota said.
“It’s been pretty lacklustre in the snow department.”
The previous snowiest day at Pearson so far this season, Liota said, was 5.2 centimetres on Dec. 11, 2022.
Until the storm hit, only 10 cm of snow had fallen since New Year’s Eve, much of it in the form of freezing rain that quickly melted. Over the last decade, January has averaged 24 cm of snow in January.
Liota predicts up to five more centimetres of snow could fall in the early morning on Thursday before the snow stops at about 8 a.m.
Wednesday’s snowfall capped off an unseasonably warm January, with daily highs that only dipped below zero twice all month.
The storm also appeared to have broken the daily snowfall record for Jan. 25, set in 2005 when 7.8 cm fell.
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Meteorologists had forecasted up to 20 cm of snow, and when the snow started falling, it was wet and heavy as temperatures hovered around 0 degrees.
In preparation for the snowfall, Metrolinx reduced and adjusted the schedule for GO trains and cancelled express GO rail service.
The City opened its three warming centres at Metro Hall, the Scarborough Civic Centre and Mitchell Field Community Centre and the TTC warned that it would have to shut down the Scarborough RT as the snowfall picked up pace.
The Ontario Provincial Police’s Highway Safety Division tweeted that none of the accidents on GTA highways had caused any serious injuries.
Ontario Provincial Police Sgt. Kerry Schmidt recommended that people stay off the roads until Thursday morning and “wait for the system to pass.”
“Let those plows and salters clear the roads before we head out again,” he said. “Please be careful out there and drive safe.”
The Greater Toronto Airports Authority reported that just over 25 per cent of arrivals and departures had been cancelled at Pearson Airport as of Wednesday evening, translating into just over 200 flights.
“A lot of the cancellations are related to weather elsewhere, as this storm first affected the U.S. and is also hitting the rest of the eastern seaboard, including Ottawa, Montreal, Boston and the Maritimes,” said spokesperson Rachel Bertone.
The evening commute coincided with the heaviest snowfall, as traffic crawled through deep snow on major arteries and a few cyclists braved the weather, at least one donning a pair of ski goggles to help with the limited visibility.
With files from Isaac Phan Nay
Marco Chown Oved is a Toronto-based reporter covering climate change for the Star. Reach him via email: email@example.com
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