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Toronto prepares for snowstorm: 'It's going to be messy in the morning'

Toronto Transportations" Nick Trakosas inspects a plow at the Morningside yard ahead of Wednesday's snowstorm, in Scarborough, February 26, 2013.

J.P. MOCZULSKI/The Globe and Mail

It won't be as severe as Snowmageddon, but parts of Toronto are expected to be hit by 15 to 20 centimetres of snow by Wednesday afternoon.

Environment Canada issued a snowfall advisory Tuesday, warning the storm would likely have a "significant impact" on Wednesday's commute, although more rain and less snow is expected close to the lake.

The advisory was the first for Toronto since earlier this month, when 30 centimetres of snow blanketed the city, prompting scores of vehicle accidents, hundreds of flight cancellations, and transit chaos.

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The city's response – or lack thereof – was widely criticized and Wednesday's cleanup will be carefully watched.

The storm earlier this month sparked a series of problems, including a number of streetcars blocked by motorists who parked too far out because of snow banks.

Toronto Transit Commission spokesman Brad Ross said it would apply the "same protocols" used for the earlier storm. In a subsequent release, the TTC pledged that it would be out with parking enforcement staff "in force" and would "aggressively tow vehicles where necessary."

City planning

Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, chairman of Toronto's public works committee, said one difference he observed Tuesday was better communication before the snow hits the ground. He said there was much discussion between city departments and outside stakeholders on how to respond.

After the 30 centimetres of snow two weeks ago, Mr. Minnan-Wong conceded the city could have "acted differently." He also ordered a review of its snow-emergency bylaw.

The city hasn't declared a snow emergency since 1999, when mayor Mel Lastman famously called in the military to help clear city streets.

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The response earlier this month was criticized not just by members of the public, but by councillors.

Mike Del Grande demanded to know why crews did not clear piles of snow left by plows, known as windrows, from the driveways of some of his constituents.

Snow removal

Peter Noehammer, Toronto's director of transportation services, said more than 1,300 employees will respond to the storm. About 200 salt trucks, 600 road plows, and 300 sidewalk plows will also be deployed.

Mr. Noehammer said salt trucks would stand by late Tuesday and lay salt as soon as possible to try to prevent the snow from being packed down.

"It's going to be messy in the morning," he predicted, given the snow is expected to be at its heaviest during the morning rush hour.

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He advised people not to travel unless they absolutely have to.

Plowing will begin on highways when snow reaches a depth of two centimetres and on main roads when five centimetres has accumulated, and will continue until snow stops falling.

Residents in the downtown, who do not get their sidewalks plowed by the city, are expected to clear those spaces within 12 hours of the end of the storm.

Transit precautions

Toronto's transit system will deploy de-icing units and leave half the trains in the tunnel overnight in a bid to head off commuter problems.

About 37 per cent of people in downtown Toronto commute by transit, according to municipal figures, and delays on the TTC can cause havoc.

Also planned were measures to keep rolling stock moving over the rails.

Specially equipped trains

will spray de-icing on the third rail, which delivers electricity, and maintenance crews in streetcars dubbed "storm cars" will work to keep switches functioning.

The situation at the TTC can be monitored at or through Twitter, via @TTCNotices.

The city is urging people to prepare for the storm by buying necessary medications and deferring optional car trips.

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