Harsh winter conditions are sweeping across Canada on Wednesday, prompting travel warnings.
Air Canada and WestJet say the blizzard conditions may cause delays to flights into and out of airports in Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal on Wednesday and Thursday.
FlightAware, a tracking service, says carriers have already cancelled some 2,200 flights in the United States as of early Wednesday afternoon.
Environment Canada warns heavy snow will hit a swath of southern Ontario starting in the late afternoon Wednesday, followed by ice pellets and freezing rain overnight.
It forecasts snowfall will total 10 to 15 centimetres with winds gusting at 50 to 70 kilometres per hour as the low-pressure system advances from the American southwest.
With a winter storm headed for <a href=”https://twitter.com/TorontoPearson?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@TorontoPearson</a>, <a href=”https://twitter.com/FlyYOW?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@flyyow</a>, <a href=”https://twitter.com/yulaeroport?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@yulaeroport</a> and eastern Canada today, please check your flight’s status before going to the airport at <a href=”https://t.co/j6Q9rcq8zw”>https://t.co/j6Q9rcq8zw</a>. A goodwill policy is in effect permitting customers to make flight changes. <a href=”https://t.co/nV2nB0HDte”>pic.twitter.com/nV2nB0HDte</a>
Air Canada spokesperson Peter Fitzpatrick says the carrier has made “some schedule adjustments” due to the storm, and that customers will be rebooked or can opt for a refund.
Here’s what’s happening in different parts of the country
Snow has already descended upon southern Ontario, and is forecasted to increase in volume between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. — right in time for rush hour — according to Environment Canada Senior Meteorologist Katrina Eyk.
In a winter weather warning issued by Environment Canada late Tuesday, the agency said that “surfaces such as highways, roads, walkways and parking lots will become icy, slippery and hazardous.
“If visibility is reduced while driving, slow down, watch for tail lights ahead and be prepared to stop.”
🧊 FREEZING RAIN 🧊 will be a major impact of this winter storm! <br>👇Below is a map depicting possible ice accretion due to freezing rain.<br>Areas in the 10 to 15 mm ice accretion range could see locally up to 20 mm.<br>Freezing rain warnings 👉 <a href=”https://t.co/J5aRYniQpL”>https://t.co/J5aRYniQpL</a><a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/ONStorm?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#ONStorm</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/ONwx?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#ONwx</a> <a href=”https://t.co/TKsYAUABvO”>pic.twitter.com/TKsYAUABvO</a>
Between 10 and 15 centimetres of icy snow is forecast to accumulate in the Toronto area before the storm largely tapers off Thursday morning. The city’s transit commission says it is prepared for the storm, with some notable service adjustments expected as the snowfall picks up, such as closing some subway lines early and replacing them with buses.
But freezing drizzle may continue throughout Thursday, Eyk says, with periods of light snowfall possible into the afternoon and evening.
While the forecast is looking ugly for the GTA, the weather could get even worse in other parts of the province.
Windsor-Essex braced for “significant” freezing rain in the region, which prompted St. Clair College to cancel all classes at its Windsor and Chatham campuses scheduled from 1 p.m. into the evening. School bus service for students across Windsor-Essex, Chatham-Kent and Sarnia-Lambton was also cancelled for Wednesday.
Environment Canada says extensive power outages are likely around Niagara, London and other areas of southwestern Ontario where it’s forecasting freezing rain, moderate winds and up to 20 millimetres of ice buildup.
Most parts of eastern Ontario, including Ottawa, Brockville and Cornwall, have snowfall warnings in effect. There’s also one for Gatineau, Que.
The Lake Ontario area, including Kingston and Belleville, has a winter storm warning in effect. The difference there is that about 15 centimetres of snow should be mixed with ice pellets, and freezing rain is possible.
In Northern Ontario, Environment Canada issued extreme cold warnings for several parts of the region and said some — Sachigo Lake, Webequie, Fort Severn, Pickle Lake, and Pikangikum – can expect wind chills of about -50 C Wednesday night and into Thursday morning.
A quickly descending Pacific frontal system brought frigid temperatures and snow to British Columbia on Tuesday evening.
In the Lower Mainland, Coquitlam, Burnaby Mountain and parts of the Fraser Valley have already seen some snow overnight on Tuesday.
“For Vancouver, that will mean afternoon highs that stay around the freezing mark and overnight lows that could get down below –6 C,” said CBC meteorologist Johanna Wagstaffe.
Temperatures across B.C. are expected to remain five to 15 degrees below seasonal through the end of the week, said Wagstaffe.
Mail delivery and school bus services were cancelled in Prince George Tuesday after the region received more than 30 centimetres of snow in 24 hours.
Strong winds in southern parts of Howe Sound will continue Wednesday morning through Thursday morning. Environment Canada warns gusts of up to 90 kilometres per hour may result in power outages and fallen tree branches.