When airport taxi driver Sukhi Sidhu pulled onto Highway 401 in Toronto around 7 a.m. Monday, he had no idea he would be sitting there, stuck, unable to move an inch , for more than eight hours and more.
Sidhu was on his way to pick up a client in Scarborough, Ontario, and pulled onto the highway heading east around 7 a.m.
It was “total whiteout conditions,” he said. But he had a client to pick up who had to go to the airport. Smaller roads were a write-off, he said, so he was certain the freeway would be his best bet.
About 15 minutes into his ride, traffic came to a halt.
Since then, he’s been stuck in the same spot on the 401 Express, and he’s not alone.
“There’s really nothing you can do,” he told CBC News from his car around 3:20 p.m. you’re hot…go on.'”
Sidhu used to drive a truck, so he’s used to making sure he has a full tank of gas, but he said he was worried about those who might not be so prepared.
“I’m just trying to stay calm. I have water and I’m just with everyone here, it’s true. It’s terrible, you see little children, there are old people, they are stuck.”
“We don’t stop until we’re done”
The OPP say the plows are trying to get through, but there are snow-covered vehicles and stranded transport trucks – and the loss of daylight will make cleanup all the more difficult.
“Help is coming, we’re trying to get through it,” but there’s no way of knowing how long it might take to get people out, the road safety division spokesman said, Sgt. Kerry Schmidt.
“You can’t plow a highway when there are vehicles on it.”
As for how to clean things up, Schmidt said crews will need to start at the front of the traffic jam, clear vehicles to create a path, and then lead others into that path so they can get out.
Drivers who can are asked to remove traction control and try to help each other where possible, he said.
“We won’t stop until we’re done,” Schmidt said.
Around 4 p.m., Schmidt said there was no access to the northbound 400 freeway from the eastbound 401 freeway due to haul trucks blocking the lanes.
“The snow is coming up and it’s causing all kinds of problems,” Schmidt said.
The eastbound collector lanes of Highway 401 approaching Keele Street are also blocked.
The situation was not much better on many other routes, with several TTC and GO Transit vehicles appearing to be trapped in the snow. Elsewhere in the city, lines of trams were seen blocked.
At around 2:50 p.m., the Toronto Transit Commission said the majority of its fleet was stuck in snow.
Unfortunately, the majority of our fleet is stuck in the snow. ^EN
The blizzard forced the closure of 2 major arteries
Earlier Monday, blizzard conditions forced the closure of two of Toronto’s main thoroughfares, the Gardiner Expressway and the Don Valley Parkway. Both have since reopened.
At around 10:15 a.m., police closed both roads, along with any connected ramps, to help clear them of heavy snow and stuck vehicles.
By 12:35 p.m., the eastbound Gardiner had fully reopened. As of 2 p.m., the westbound Gardiner was also fully open, as well as the southbound DVP. Around 2:45 p.m., the DVP was fully reopened.
MOTORWAY CLOSURES: Due to extreme weather conditions and for driver safety, the @TorontoPolice temporarily closes the DVP and Gardiner. All ramps will be closed. This is to help move any existing vehicles that are stuck and allow snow plows to clear the roads. ^ CdK
In progress: clearing operation on the Gardiner Expressway in Toronto. A few cars are still circulating in both directions, but they are few.#toronto pic.twitter.com/91Ki1CCtRP
The closures have forced GO Transit buses serving the city’s Union Station bus terminal to change the start and end points of their runs, the transit agency said.
For trips to and from the west end, GO Transit said buses will pick up and drop off customers at Port Credit GO. Passengers could use the GO train to and from Union Station.
Buses would also drop off and pick up passengers at the GO Transit Highway 407 Bus Terminal. Customers could then use the TTC to and from Union Station.
GO Transit says passengers can find more detailed information about their routes here.
“Stay home and off the roads”
Dangerous winter conditions also forced the closure of the UP Express train that connects Toronto’s Pearson International Airport to downtown.
Meanwhile, police have urged residents to “stay at home and off the roads” if possible.
“If you must travel, please take it easy. Make sure you have a full tank of gas, warm clothes and emergency supplies,” they said in a tweet.