The Greater Toronto Area will get hit by its first blast of winter today and Ontario Provincial Police are warning drivers to be “attentive, alert and aware of their surroundings” as road conditions worsen.

Environment Canada has issued a winter weather travel advisory for much of Southern Ontario, including the entire GTA, ahead of a cold front that could cause some scattered rain showers to change over to flurries later this afternoon and into this evening.

A separate snow squall watch is also in effect for Barrie, Collingwood and Innisfil, where the total accumulation could exceed 15 centimetres in areas that happen to receive multiple snow squalls.

“When the first snowfall hits likely we are going to have a rash of crashes. Usually it is single vehicle spin outs, drivers taking off ramps and on ramps too fast. They are hitting other vehicles in front of them because they are not giving them proper following distance,” OPP Sgt. Kerry Schmidt told CP24 on Thursday morning. “We need to have every driver attentive, alert and aware of their surroundings knowing that road conditions can change very quickly with snow and blowing snow, ice and freezing rain. You never know what is coming up.”

Environment Canada is forecasting a high of 9 C for Toronto on Thursday but the temperature is expected to fall to 2 C by later in the afternoon. The temperature will then drop down to -9 C overnight, though it will feel more like – 15 with the windchill. As a result, the city has issued the first extreme cold weather alert of the year and is warning residents to dress in layers and cover up exposed skin.

Schmidt said that it is important that drivers outfit their vehicles with winter tires as the weather starts to change but he said that safety on the roads ultimately comes down to “driving according to the conditions at all times.”

He said that in the event of a collision or a spin out drivers should get off the highways immediately in order to reduce the risk of a secondary collision.

“We have so many crashes that happen as a result of an initial collision and very often these secondary crashes can be even more tragic and serious than the original car slowing down traffic,” he said.

City won’t get more than 2 cm of snow

According to CP24 Meteorologist Bill Coulter, Toronto is not likely to see more than two centimetres of snow over the next 24 hours, though areas north of the city could get between 10 and 15 centimetres.

He said that there is the potential for wet snow between 6:30 p.m. and 9 p.m. and then flurries overnight as the temperatures drop further. There is no precipitation in the forecast for Friday, though it will be cold with Environment Canada forecasting a high of -1 C.

“This is not snowmageddon, this isn’t a big Colorado low but it is the first taste of real winter-type driving conditions and there will be a dramatic drop in temperatures,” Coulter said. “There is a lot of firsts and that is often very problematic.”

Salt already applied to some roads

City of Toronto crews applied salt to hills and bridges on Wednesday night and will likely not have to reapply before the arrival of the snow on Thursday evening.

Crews will, however, be patrolling the roads and will be ready to respond if conditions worsen.

“We have staff patrolling the roads and if there is any rain that may turn into ice the crews will be called out for salting immediately,” Director of Transportation Services Myles Currie told CP24. “If it rains a big concern for us would be if temperatures also drop quickly and we see a fast freeze. Our patrollers will be key to make sure we are on top of that.”

Councillor Jaye Robinson says the city now has more than 1,000 snow ploughs at its disposal. The annual snow removal budget for 2017/2018 is $90 million.

Tonight’s winter weather is likely to be the earliest recorded snowfall in Toronto since 2014 when the city got 1.4 centimetres on Halloween.

Last year, the city didn’t see flurries until Nov. 20th and in 2015 the first flurries came on Nov. 22.

Source: CP24