A snowstorm on Saturday caused a spike in road collisions, transit delays and flight cancellations as the city deployed 1,500 workers to clean up the mess overnight.
Environment Canada said Toronto could see close to 15 centimetres in total. The snow was expected to taper off to wet flurries or light showers Saturday evening, as the temperature hovered above freezing.
The city had been preparing for the snowfall for days before it hit, said spokesperson Eric Holmes.
“We’ve got about 1,500 staff who have been on call for every storm like this,” said Holmes.
Salt trucks were on the road at 7 a.m., while plows were dispatched once 2.5 centimetres of snow accumulated on major expressways and five centimetres on major roads. Neighbourhood streets were to follow, Holmes said.
Clearing Toronto’s 9,500 streets is typically a 16-hour operation and residents are advised to wait before calling the city, he said.
“If you haven’t seen a plow on your neighbourhood street after this kind of storm by Sunday afternoon then you can call 311, but our crews are going to be out all night working,” he said.
Holmes urged Torontonians to stay off the roads Saturday night.
Police had responded to 40 active collisions by 4 p.m., and a total of 250 collisions were reported in 24 hours as of 7 p.m., according to Sgt. Kerry Schmidt of the Ontario Provincial Police.
“As quickly as we can clear them, new crashes are happening. Cars are spinning out of control, going sideways, getting stuck. I saw some vehicles having struggles even merging onto the highway,” Schmidt said in a video posted to his Twitter.
Schmidt advised drivers to give plows “lots of space” to do their job and make sure full vehicle lighting systems were on because of reduced visibility.
“The collisions that we have been dealing with right now have all been relatively minor in nature,” Schmidt said. “Mostly slow-speed collisions, but they are preventable and drivers are still going likely a little too fast.”
The weather also affected TTC service. “We have a lot of vehicles on the road today and some of them have been caught in snow and slippery roads,” said spokesperson Stuart Green.
Only one TTC vehicle had been involved in a collision and all routes remained in operation, Green said.
“With the amount of snow we’ve seen today, we’ve seen a number of our buses get stuck on hills and steep inclines. We’ve had a couple of streetcar diversions, but they were related to on-street accidents as opposed to the weather per se,” Green said.
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One TTC bus spun out and was “completely sideways,” blocking lanes in the area of Kingston and Bellamy roads, Toronto police tweeted.
Another TTC bus was stuck on CN train tracks near Progress Avenue and Kennedy Road, police said. All trains were stopped until the bus was removed.
Toronto Pearson Airport said travellers were warned in advance of possible cancellations and delays. Roughly a fifth of Pearson flights were cancelled as of 6 p.m., according to the airport’s website.
“The nice thing about this storm is that we’ve known about it for a few days so we have been able to plan and notify passengers in advance,” said Beverly MacDonald, a spokesperson for the airport.
Cancellations were not expected to increase significantly overnight, but MacDonald said passengers should expect longer waits when boarding and disembarking, as crews worked to clear snow and ice.
Several city events were affected by the flight interruptions. The Toronto Blue Jays tweeted that catcher Danny Jansen was unable to attend the first day of the team’s Winter Fest. Comedian John Mulaney was also forced to cancel a show Saturday night at Meridian Hall. It was rescheduled for Feb. 28.