As Canada’s furry forecasters made their predictions on spring, winter wasn’t giving up without a fight this Groundhog Day.
Another storm was expected to bring a mixed bag of nasty weather to the Atlantic provinces overnight after heavy snowfall and strong winds brought Toronto’s morning traffic to a halt and closed schools in parts of Ontario.
Nova Scotia's groundhog Shubenacadie Sam and Pennsylvania's Punxsutawney Phil predicted another six weeks of winter, while in Ontario, Wiarton Willie failed to see his shadow, heralding an early spring.
Atlantic Canada: Winter storm and blizzard warnings across New Brunswick and Newfoundland, with parts of Nova Scotia, including the Halifax area, also expecting heavy rain
Quebec: Blowing-snow advisories in Montreal and Quebec City, with cold Arctic winds expected to bring overnight temperatures in parts of southern Quebec as low as -45 with wind chill
Ontario: Weather warnings were lifted late Monday morning after Environment Canada predicted a 25- to 35-centimetre snowfall from Sarnia toward Hamilton
In Nova Scotia, heavy snow was expected to change to heavy rain overnight Monday, with up to 45 centimetres of snow expected in the northern part of the province, and up to 50 millimetres of rain in some areas. Temperatures were then expected to plummet below freezing on Tuesday morning.
New Brunswick was preparing for blizzard conditions, where up to 40 centimetres of snow was expected in some areas.
Parts of Prince Edward Island were also bracing for about 30 centimetres of snow.
The storm was expected to make its way to Newfoundland and Labrador on Tuesday, bringing high winds and heavy snow to some areas.
Ontario’s commuters faced a treacherous morning commute Monday after Environment Canada warned that wind and blowing snow would reduce visibility to 500 metres or less.
All three westbound lanes of Highway 401 were closed by an eight-vehicle collision near Brock Street in Whitby, Ont., provincial police reported just before noon.
The Toronto District School Board cancelled bus service, but kept schools open Monday. Waterloo region's schools were closed, and a number of school boards across the region have cancelled Monday bus service.
All day classes at Humber College, the University of Guelph-Humber and Centennial College have been cancelled.
Just before 6 a.m., a 49-year-old woman barely escaped with her life after her vehicle became stuck on train tracks just east of Windsor, Ont., with a train on the way. Police say the woman’s vehicle became stuck in snow on the tracks and she was trying to dislodge it when she realized the eastbound train was approaching. She got out of the vehicle just before the train struck it, splitting it in half, leaving only minor damage to the train.
Weather was forecast to improve over Southwestern Ontario by this morning and by this afternoon in the rest of the areas under a winter-storm warning.
What the groundhogs say
According to folklore, a groundhog spotting its shadow means six more weeks of winter. There are several groundhog forecasters making predictions today:
Nova Scotia: Shubenacadie Sam (shadow spotted)
Ontario: Wiarton Willie (no shadow spotted)
Manitoba: Winnipeg Willow (early spring predicted)
United States: Punxsutawney Phil (shadow spotted)
In reality, Punxsutawney Phil’s prediction is decided ahead of
time by the so-called Inner Circle on Gobbler’s Knob, the tiny hill
in the town for which he’s named.
In Manitoba, the Prairie Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre tried something different this year with their groundhog: Instead of seeing if Winnipeg Willow saw her shadow, the centre based their prediction on Willow's behaviour. If she was sluggish and tired, it meant more winter, but if she was active it meant an early spring. On Monday morning, the centre predicted an early spring, saying Willow was "very active."
Last year, only Wiarton Willie was correct when he spotted his shadow and a polar vortex plunged Canada into a brutal winter that dragged on and on. Neither Shubenacadie Sam nor Winnipeg Willow saw their shadows.
What's in store this month
Environment Canada has already crunched the data for the next month and come up with this prediction: February will be colder than normal across the country.
Senior climatologist Dave Phillips notes Wiarton Willie’s overall record is spotty, but says predicting the weather is a tough gig.
“His batting average is not that great …but hey, neither is ours.”