‘Crippling blizzard conditions’ for parts of Simcoe County and Muskoka, snow and powerful wind for all areas

Snow squalls are expected to develop Friday evening and last through Saturday for some areas

with files from The Canadian Press

A major winter storm battering southern Ontario will linger into Saturday and will be followed up with local snow squalls.

Environment Canada has posted a blizzard warning  watches and warnings for northern Simcoe County and portions of Muskoka including Bracebridge and Gravenhurst.

“Crippling blizzard conditions this evening into Saturday,” Environment Canada said in its weather bulletin. “Travel will be extremely difficult to impossible at times and is not advised.”

The Orillia and Midland area and up into Muskoka could receive 25 to 50 cm of snow by Saturday night, which will be blown around by wind gusts up to 90 km/h. As well, wind chill values will be around minus 20.

Barrie, Collingwood, and south to the GTA remain under a winter storm warning with snowfall amounts of 5 to 10 cm by this evening to be followed by lake effect snow off of Georgian Bay.

“The most significant lake effect snow appears to remain north of Barrie through Saturday afternoon,” said Environment Canada. “Given the localized nature of lake effect snow, accumulations will vary depending on location.”

While the snowfall total in the Barrie area won’t be a lot from this storm, the problem will be wind gusts of between 80 and 90 km/hr on Friday and Saturday creating poor visibility and the risk of power outages.

Hydro One, Ontario’s largest electricity utility, said roughly 70,000 customers without power around noon.

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

WestJet announced late Thursday that it was cancelling 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 a.m. 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.

Air Canada said Friday that it had cancelled “a number of flights” in Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto, including all its flights out of Toronto’s downtown island airport, citing the storm, reduced airport capacity and operational constraints.