01/13/2012 08:30 EST | Updated 03/14/2012 05:12 EDT

'Messy commute' causing numerous collisions

Police patrolling the highways in and around Toronto are reporting numerous collisions on Friday morning as drivers had to contend with high winds, blowing snow and icy roads.

CBC meteorologist Johanna Wagstaffe said two competing low-pressure systems tracking from the Prairies and Texas are bringing rain and snow across parts of Ontario and Eastern Canada.

In the GTA it delivered a mix of wind, rain and small amounts of snow.

“It’s a bit of a messy commute for the city of Toronto,” said Wagstaffe. “Accumulations won’t be high but it will be a sloppy mix on the roads.”

Speaking on CBC Radio at 7:30 a.m. on Friday, OPP Sgt. Dave Woodford said the weather had already led to numerous collisions.

“All of a sudden it was like a flash freeze,” Woodford said. “We’ve had numerous collisions, one after another, all as a result of these icy conditions that we’re seeing. Most of those are on the on and off ramps with people braking as they exit the ramps.”

He urged drivers to put down their cellphones while driving.

“Stay focused on your driving and leave a nice safe distance from the driver in front of you,” he said.

At times on Friday morning the OPP was reporting collisions at a rate of one a minute. With so many crashes happening so quickly, embedded a Twitter widget into this story (at right) that pulls in Tweets from the OPP’s Twitter account.

As temperatures continued to fall on Friday, the city of Toronto issued an extreme cold weather alert. During such alerts, the city expands its services and encourages homeless people to seek shelter.

Wagstaffe said Toronto will likely see a maximum of only three centimeters of snow, with higher accumulations in areas north and east of the city.

“So for the city of Toronto you had rain, mild temperatures yesterday. It changed over to snow early this morning, but it’s light snow, the kind that makes for messy roads and it’s freezing up a bit as well so roads are quite slippery even though we’re not looking at massive accumulations.”

Depending on your location, the precipitation could fall as rain, snow or ice pellets, which also fell in downtown Toronto early Friday.

Roads and sidewalks slippery

“I think the real issue will be for people either walking or driving to work,” said Wagstaffe. “It’s windy, it’s freezing and roads and sidewalks are quite slippery with the messy, wet snow that’s falling right now.”

Wagstaffe said winds will be another factor affecting drivers’ visibility as they head in to work, with gusts of up to 50 kilometres an hour expected.

After Friday, the wet snow is expected to give way to a weekend of clear, cold weather, with Saturday’s forecast calling for a daytime high of only -10 C.