BARRIE, Ont. — The snow just came out of nowhere.
Surprise snow squalls that caused highway havoc right across southern Ontario on Thursday killed at least one motorist and injured several others.
Hwy. 400 north of Toronto was a crumpled mess after a 96-car pileup closed the busy strip for most of the day.
Both directions of the highway were shut down between Highway 89 and Mapleview Dr.
as police and dozens of tow trucks worked to clean up the huge mess.
Several injuries were reported, but none life-threatening.
“Pretty incredible," is now Ontario Provincial Police Sgt. Peter Leon described it. “We're very lucky no one was seriously injured.”
Several other major routes north of Toronto were closed due to the wild weather, including another multi-vehicle pileup on Yonge Street, south of County Rd. 89, that involved a police cruiser.
A 96-vehicle crash south of Barrie, Thursday morning. (MARK WANZEL/QMI Agency)
In southwestern Ontario, several lanes of Hwy. 402 near London were closed most of the day after a pair of 30-vehicle pileups — one that that stretched for 2 km.
One person was reported dead and there were reports of several more injuries.
The whiteouts — a cold front that blew in what Leon described as a “wall of snow” — caught many white-knuckle drivers off guard, many of whom hit the road before snow squall warnings were issued by Environment Canada.
"(It's) really, really freaking bad," said Megan O'Neil-Renaud, who said she was stuck in one spot outside Forest, Ont., with several other cars for hours.
In some areas north of London, police closed down every road. That stranded hundreds of bussed students in their schools.
Environment Canada said many areas were hit with a quick 2-4 centimetres of snow, reducing visibility to nearly nil as a cold front moved through Thursday.
- with files from Jack Poirier and Bob Bruton