Ontario winter storm: Up to 100 vehicles involved in crashes on Hwy 401

Up to 100 vehicles have been involved in multiple crashes on Highway 401 between London and Tilbury, Ontario Provincial Police say.

Drivers are being warned to stay off the roads if possible as the dangerous system moves east through Waterloo region toward the Greater Toronto Area.

“Please, if you don’t need to be on the roads, stay home, wait until this system passes. Let the plows and salters do their job. The best place is off the highway,” OPP Sgt. Kerry Schmidt said in a video posted to Twitter at 12:18 pm Friday.

Both Highway 401 between London and Tilbury and Highway 402 between London and Sarnia were completely closed in both directions on Friday with one OPP officer describing the corridor as “one of the worst traffic scenes” he’s ever witnessed.

Police say fortunately no serious injuries have been associated with any of the multi-vehicle collisions along the corridor. Two people have been transported to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

At 1 pm, OPP announced all roads were closed in nearby Perth County, where a blizzard warning is in effect and Environment Canada says up to 50 cm of snow could fall by Sunday morning. The main roads in neighboring Huron County were also closed around an hour later.

Environment Canada warns the storm system that swept into Ontario and Quebec Friday and is expected to last through Saturday could be a once-in-a-decade event.

“We may only see one of these storms every five or 10 years,” said Environment Canada meteorologist Mitch Meredith. “I’ve only seen a couple of storms like this in the last 20 years.”

High winds, heavy slow and possible flash freezing resulted in school cancellations across southern Ontario, including in the Waterloo region Friday.

In Ayr, 2,458 homes and businesses lost power for several hours Friday. As of 4 pm, around 1,000 were still without electricity.

In Guelph, a power outage was affecting 219 homes and business in the area of ​​Woolwich Street and Speedvale Avenue, as of 4 pm Guelph Hydro said it was restored before 7 pm

Environment Canada says travel is “hazardous and not advised” in Waterloo region and southern Wellington County.

Meanwhile in northern Wellington, Huron and Perth counties, the weather agency says “crippling blizzard conditions” will make travel “impossible at times” with wind gusts of up 90 to 100 km per hour possible.

CAA South Central Ontario (CAA SCO) says it is prioritizing emergency calls and service to members in unsafe conditions amid an extremely high demand for service. Members waiting in safety at home may experience longer than expected wait times, CAA says.

Blowing snow makes for treacherous conditions on a Kitchener Highway on Friday Dec. 23, 2022. (Chris Thomson/CTV Kitchener)

At Stratford, a bus stuck on an icy hill resulted in several cars going into the ditch to avoid the stalled vehicle.

“I was coming down John Street and not going very fast but the mobility bus was coming down the road and I couldn’t stop so instead of hitting it, I came up on here,” a driver explained to CTV News.

Another, who had to drive home to Woodstock, decided to leave work early.

“Bad roads, bad everything,” he told CTV News. “A lot of slipping, a lot of sliding. You can’t see 100 meters ahead of you.”

The storm upended holiday travel plans for thousands of people as airlines pre-emptively canceled flights, with more disruptions expected.

Passengers wait for a bus after their GO train was canceled at Kitchener. (Chris Thomson/CTV Kitchener)

WestJet announced late Thursday that it was canceling flights at airports in Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia.

The cancellations apply to all flights scheduled to arrive and depart Toronto’s Pearson International Airport beginning Friday at 9 am until the end of the day, the airline said. Other airports affected by the service disruptions include those in Ottawa, London, Ont., Waterloo, Ont., and Montreal.

With files from The Canadian Press

Blowing snow reduces visibility in downtown Kitchener on Friday Dec. 23 during a major winter storm. (Chris Thomson/CTV Kitchener)

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