401 traffic

Drivers have been stuck in the snow on Toronto's Hwy 401 for more than 8 hours now

Ontario's Highway 401 is a complete disaster throughout the Greater Toronto Area this afternoon thanks to a literal blizzard that, while now downgraded to a winter storm, continues to wreak havoc on local roads.

In a live dispatch from the 401 near Highway 400 around 2 p.m. this afternoon, OPP Highway Safety Division Constable Kerry Schmidt reiterated that motorists should stay home unless absolutely necessary.

"We've got a couple of transport trucks blocking lanes, they can't make it up this ramp, and because there's been no traffic, the snow is drifting up and it's obviously causing all kinds of issues for everybody," said Schmidt, noting that the major commuter highway is "jammed up" and that traffic is not moving at all.

While not entirely unusual for cars to sit in wait along the 401 at rush hour, the particular vehicles referenced by Schmidt have been trapped all day, from morning rush hour and now heading into the afternoon rush as well.

One gentleman told the officer in his live Twitter video that he'd been stuck in the snow since around 7 a.m. — roughly an hour before Environment Canada issued a blizzard warning for Toronto.

The driver says he'd known since last night that a snowstorm was coming, but that he didn't realize it would be this bad. Images from local roads and highways suggest that he was far from alone.

Schmidt said in his video that it's not yet known when the highway will be clear enough for the long lineups of cars to pass.

The transport trucks blocking the lanes must first be hauled away by heavy tow trucks, which are obviously in high demand everywhere right now.

Earlier in the day, drivers were actually spotted on traffic cams getting out of their vehicles to dig themselves and others out of the snow.

Nearing 3 p.m., webcams stationed along the 401 were showing either long lines of stopped cars or complete nothingness in areas where on and off ramps have been closed.

It's been a brutal day for those who've found themselves stuck on the 401 and other major roads in the area that have been gummed up or shut down by this historic blizzard.

Some people were seen walking on the highway earlier Monday, likely in an attempt to get off the road and find someplace warm to wait out the storm.

Unfortunately for everyone, conditions weren't much better in the city, not for drivers or public transit users.

Toronto's Gardiner Expressway and Don Valley Parkway have reopened after being closed earlier on Monday due to collisions and for snow clearing, but the 401 is a much larger and longer throughway.

The highway remains blocked and in gridlock at several junctures throughout the GTA.

Motorists are distressed in some cases, not knowing when exactly help will come or how long it will be until their gas runs out.

CAA (The Canadian Automobile Association) told CTV today that it is receiving as many as 500 calls per hour in South Central Ontario related to cars stuck in the snow.

This has increased wait times significantly, though it doesn't really matter in cases where roads are blocked by transport trucks and inaccessible to emergency crews anyway.

"We are asking members who are at home safe to call us after the storm passes," said a CAA spokesperson to CTV News. "Our focus is to respond to high priority calls first, including those stranded on roads and highways or safety-related."

As previously mentioned, Environment Canada called off its blizzard warning late Monday morning, but winter storm conditions are expected to continue well into the evening, bringing total snowfall amounts of up to 60 cm to Toronto.

"Surfaces such as highways, roads, walkways and parking lots may become difficult to navigate due to accumulating snow," warns the federal weather agency.

"Rapidly accumulating snow will make travel difficult. Road closures are possible. Visibility may be suddenly reduced at times in heavy snow. Take extra care when walking or driving in affected areas. Take frequent breaks and avoid strain when clearing snow."

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