OPP reporting numerous crashes; plow crews clearing main streets
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With about a foot of snow falling across most of Ontario, offices, schools and colleges closed as cars and snowplows slid off roadways, and backaches abounded as the never-ending snow shovelling cycle began.
Environment Canada counted more than 15 cms of snow in Barrie by 8 a.m., but senior climatologist Dave Phillips said they were estimating about three centimetres of snow an hour continued to fall in what they consider a 'heavy-snowfall'.
“So you're looking at more than 33 centimetres, which we'll round down to 30, so about a foot of snow and lots of blowing and drifting,” he said.
“And you get more near the lakes, so this is what we'll call the messy, this is the ugly time of winter. Too bad the winter festival (Winterfest) was last weekend.”
Ontario Provincial Police are reporting more than 600 accidents on Southern Ontario roadways since the storm began Thursday.
It all started with a serious three-car accident on Horseshoe Valley Road in Springwater Township that sent two people to hospital Thursday night, said Sgt. Peter Leon of the Central Region OPP.
“They closed the road as they investigated the accident. The weather was pretty brutal. It's pretty wide open there, so whatever was coming across the highway, it was a whiteout,” Leon said.
The two victims had to be extricated from their vehicles and one woman was later transported to a Toronto trauma centre, he said.
By midday Friday, Cons. Dave Woodward of the OPP Highway Traffic Division said they'd logged more than 600 single-vehicle and fender-bender accidents from Barrie down to the GTA, but that no roads had been closed.
“Which, when you look at the traffic, everybody stayed home, so that's a lot of accidents considering the volume,” said Woodford.
Shortly after 3 p.m. he said they were dealing with a jack-knifed tractor trailer on Highway 400 south and three cars in the ditch slightly to the north.
“Now the roads are icing up and getting slippery,” he said. “Looking on the (computer) screen in my cruiser, I've never seen that many (accidents) on it at one time.”
North to Orillia, Leon said they'd logged about 27 collisions, but other than a snowplow that slipped into the ditch during the morning rush hour - which was quickly extricated by a heavy towing truck - the mid-day traffic wasn't too bad.
“People are listening to the advice they've been given. They're driving well under the
posted speed and maintaining the a safe distance between cars,” Leon said.
South Simcoe Police report no collisions in their region since the snow began falling, adding many people just stayed home.
Snowplow drivers were working throughout the night, trying to keep ahead of the near half-
metre of snow that besieged Simcoe County, with drifts as high as a metre in open sections.
However, by mid-afternoon, even the snowplow drivers had to call it quits.
The City of Barrie sent out an e-mail shortly after 2:30 p.m. stating they had sent its crews that plow residential streets home to bed.
"They're out of hours. Under the Highway Traffic Act, they can only work 13 hours. They were in last night at 2 am. and they're going home for a rest," said Dave Friary, director of Barrie's roads, parking and fleet services.
"They will all be back at midnight tonight to do another 13-hour shift."
Plowing continues on priority routes, including major arterial roads including Anne, Bayfield and Dunlop streets.
The city owns 15 snow plows and contracts another 13 from various businesses throughout the county. They run 14 sanders and six sidewalk plows, with another dozen sidewalk plows contracted when necessary.
Friary said the plan should also ease the stress as drivers arrive home after work.
Typically, he explained, drivers park on the street so they can clear their driveways before pulling them in. As they do that, they needn't worry about the plows coming by, unless they're on the main routes, and crews can rest, rather than plow around cars parked on streets.
"It's been a busy day," Friary added.
"They'll be leaving by 3 p.m and back in at midnight tonight."