thundersnow ontario

Rare 'thundersnow' strike captured on camera during vicious Ontario winter storm

Toronto saw pretty snow globe-like weather over the weekend as squalls rolled through southern Ontario and western New York, but some nearby communities were walloped with up to 125 cm of the white stuff, proving that lake-effect precipitation can really deliver insanely varied conditions to different locales just minutes away from each other.

As predicted by Environment Canada last week, road conditions started turning "extremely dangerous" late Friday in some parts of the province as a "prolonged lake-effect snow event" settled over Lake Ontario and Lake Erie.

Multiple bands of snow squalls brought heavy flurries between Friday and Sunday to the Niagara Region, Buffalo, Owen Sound, Kingston, Barrie, Brockville, Wiarton and other communities, somehow sparing Toronto the brunt of the impact.

Canada's largest city got only about 3 cm of accumulation over the entire weekend, which is hard to believe when looking at footage coming out of places so close to us that we can see them across Lake Ontario on a clear day.

Saturday saw a great deal of snow land upon Southern Ontario, but Sunday was even messier as "super-snow squalls" threatened to bring another 40 cm atop the 50 cm of snow already forecast in some parts of the region.

By the time Monday rolled around, Buffalo had been slammed by an historic six feet (more than 180 cm) of snow, out-totalling anything seen directly north of the border.

That's not to say that squalls didn't seriously impact parts of Southern Ontario; Wiarton, a town of fewer than 2,000 residents in Bruce County, received an estimated 125 cm.

Whether or not they ended up with feet of on the ground, many parts of the GTA saw near-impossible driving conditions at times.

And visible moving snowmasses made for some jaw-dropping footage of Ontario skies.

But one of the coolest phenomena captured during this days-long burst of snow squalls was something many of us didn't know existed until we started seeing tweets like this one:

Did you know that thunder and lightning sometimes appear alongside heavy snow?

It's called "thundersnow," and those who witnessed it over the weekend were quick to share videos.

"This is the most electrically active snow squall I have ever seen," said The Weather Network's Mark Robinson of the weekend storm.

According to the network, "lake-effect snow and summertime thunderstorms are cousins," born from the same process that creates big Ontario storms on humid days.

Apparently the thundersnow storm was active for hours on Friday night.

And as lightning turned eyes up toward the sky, so too did some seriously cool (and kind of terrifying) walls of snow moving in.

The worst of this epic winter storm seems to have passed as of Monday afternoon, though special weather statements do remain in effect for some parts of the GTA on account of high winds.

Hamilton, Niagara, Oxford, Simcoe and Caledonia are among the communities still under an official Environment Canada advisory.

Fortunately, we can all enjoy cool weather events from safely inside our homes these days, thanks to the internet. Thanks, internet!

Lead photo by

A Great Capture


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