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Police in Ontario urge drivers to ‘stay home’ as massive winter storm continues

Police are telling Ontario residents to “stay home” as a massive winter storm continues to wreak havoc across the province.

In a video posted to Twitter around 2:45 p.m. Saturday, Sgt. Kerry Schmidt said crews were still dealing with “extreme winter weather across the province.”

“High winds, white-out conditions (and) treacherous driving (cause) a lot of problems in many areas,” he said.

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Thousands without power, numerous crashes were reported in southern Ontario as a winter storm hit

Schmidt urged Ontario residents to “stay home if you have nowhere to go.”

“Please consider the consequences of getting stuck in an area you are unfamiliar with,” he said. “Please know how dangerous it is out there. We don’t want to spoil Christmas, but we also want you to be safe.”

If you must travel, Scmidt said you should pack an emergency kit and “make sure your exhaust pipe is clear in case you ever get stuck or stranded”.

Schmidt said there are “many road closures” across the province, including along the QEW Highway between Niagara Falls and Fort Erie, and along Highways 401 and 201.

According to Schmidt, a partial lockdown between Woodstock and London was “in the process of reopening”.

Further east, Schmidt said there were road closures on Highway 417.

“And on the 401 to the Quebec border, we have lane closures and road closures there. Besides diversions, there are many areas where roads are closed, even communities, and the state of emergency is imposed,” he said.

Schmidt said drivers trying to get into Manitoba via the northern route should “be prepared for long delays.”

“We have lake-effect snow coming in from Georgian Bay through Midland to Huntsville and areas of central Ontario,” he said. “Be aware that road closures are in place through Central Ontario, Western Ontario up through the Gray Bruce area and all the way down through Southwestern Ontario.”

According to Schmidt, the police have received reports of the first fatalities.

“We’re investigating whether weather conditions played a role in this, but that’s still an ongoing investigation,” he said.


Earlier Saturday, OPP said more than 500 collisions had been reported across Ontario and urged motorists to “reconsider travel plans until the weather improves and roads are open again.”

Schmidt said several police cruisers and other emergency vehicles were also involved in collisions, adding some were “hit by passing vehicles that were unable to stop due to visibility or slippery road conditions.”

In a statement Saturday, CAA said it was experiencing “extremely high demand for services due to weather and road closures” in south-central Ontario.

“Our network is operating at full capacity as we prioritize emergency calls and members in unsafe situations,” the statement said. “Members who are safely waiting at home or at work may wait longer than expected.”

According to the CAA, motorists should avoid unnecessary trips because road conditions are “slick and slippery”.

On Saturday, Hydro One said crews had made “significant progress” restoring power to more than 230,000 customers across the province.

“More than 76,000 customers are still without power and the Company expects more outages will be reported today as high winds and extreme conditions continue along many Ontario coasts,” the press release said. “In addition, road closures and hazardous driving conditions in parts of southern, central and eastern Ontario continue to make it unsafe for Hydro One crews to respond immediately.”

Hydro One Chief Operating Officer David Lebeter said the company anticipates it will take “several days” to restore power to all of its customers.

“We want our customers to know that over the holiday period we have all the resources available to restore power as soon as it is safe to do so,” he said. “We know no one envisioned spending the holidays like this, but we are committed to getting through these challenging conditions until every customer is recovered.”

— With a file from The Canadian Press

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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