More than 550 collisions on Toronto-area highways as ice storm pelts Southern Ontario
TORONTO -- An ice storm pelting parts of southern Ontario has knocked out power to thousands of people and wreaked havoc on the roads.
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A provincial police spokesman said more than 550 crashes had been reported in the Greater Toronto Area by late Saturday.
"We've got cars in the ditches, we've got cars on the concrete wall, we've got cars facing the wrong way," Kerry Schmidt said. "We've got problems all over the place."
Schmidt said most of the collisions were minor and there were no reports of fatalities.
Environment Canada said the storm was expected to continue Sunday with heavy winds, which could down more trees and power lines.
The weather agency said freezing rain, ice pellets and snow are affecting areas stretching from Windsor up to the Muskoka region and east to Ottawa.
Wind warnings were also issued with gusts expected to reach up to 90 km/h in the Hamilton area for Sunday morning, which could cause damage to buildings, toss loose objects and break tree branches.
Peter Kimbell, a meteorologist with the weather agency, said some communities in southwestern Ontario near Sarnia and Lake Erie could get up to 40 millimetres of freezing rain -- more than the 30 millimetres that hit Toronto in 2013, leaving people 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 for sure."
The sloppy weather is expected to continue until Sunday afternoon, when temperatures are expected to rise.
Toronto was expected to only receive 15 millimetres of freezing rain, Kimbell said, while areas like Hamilton could receive between 20 and 30 millimetres by Sunday.
Toronto's Pearson Airport advised passengers to check their flight status before leaving, with more than 250 flights cancelled by Saturday evening.
Hydro One said it has crews ready to respond to outages 24-7, and additional resources are on standby this weekend. By Saturday evening, more than 6,000 people were without power.
Alectra Utilities reported earlier in the day that more than 15,000 were without power in St. Catharines, Ont., but by the evening, power had been restored to all but 1,400 customers.
Meanwhile, various universities -- including Ryerson, Waterloo, McMaster and Wilfrid Laurier -- opted to delay weekend exams due to the weather.
Drivers were urged to take extra care, as gusty winds and broken tree limbs could add to the danger on icy roads.
The Toronto and Region Conservation Authority warned of potential flooding as rivers could rise by Sunday night due to the high amount of precipitation in the area.
"It is difficult to determine the extent of flooding possible, so TRCA advises the public to stay alert to changing conditions," the agency said in a statement.