I had today off and there weren't any chores keeping me back. I was tempted to take a drive to the Buffalo area to see how their 6 foot lake effect snow storm was turning out.
I almost made the trip to Buffalo but decided it was looking too messy and impassible. When everyone is getting stuck there's no reason why I wouldn't either. The last thing I really wanted to do was spend the night stuck in the car or in a backup somewhere between Buffalo and Lackawanna.
Instead I figured I would catch a classic Wasaga/Georgian Bay squall along a thermal trof driving south from Manitoulin. The WRF-NAM and HRRR had both handled the forecast well to this point and the Britt radar showed the monster squall coming together nicely over northern Lake Huron / Georgian Bay.
So I headed out to catch some Georgian Bay squall action! I was on the road by 2:30 and racing north to keep ahead of any rush hour traffic.
The trip up the 400 was pretty smooth and boring, there was some blowing snow around the Holland Marsh area mixed with dust and pockets of fine ice crystals. This was all from evaporated squalls that were coming off southern Lake Huron some 200km to the west.
Barrie was fine but everything changed once on Highway 26. There was plenty of blowing and drifting snow with the sun peaking out between the clouds.
The winds were also howling out of the west-southwest, probably somewhere in the 50 - 70 km/h range at times.
Less zoomed in but still looking west, this was an accidentally overexposed photo showing all the drifting snow near Crossland Road.
While the roads were generally good for the most part, there were ares where blowing snow was a problem and really icing things up.
Despite the blowing snow, the air was clear, it was not snowing. Instead, a huge linear squall, the one forecasted, was drifting south over the lake towards Wasaga.
I was now in a bit of a rush to get to the shoreline before it hit.
Wasaga Beach looks a little different in the winter... it's not as enticing to go for a swim! The squall line here was still out over the bay and starting to close in.
I had arrived just in time to watch the squall make landfall. There were a couple pre-squall bursts of snow, but it was mostly clear.
Here you can see snow in the clouds above the horizon. There was just wave after wave of snow creeping towards the shoreline. Winds at the surface were now sustained around 65km/h! (that's what my anemometer said!)
Here's what my GoPro was seeing... pretty similar to the SLR
Within a few moments the squall closed in and the winds were roaring gusting to 73 km/h! The snow began to steadily intensify with much of it blowing and drifting along the narrow area between the unfrozen shoreline and beach store fronts.
This was looking back towards Beach Area 1. I'm not sure exactly how far away that SUV is but it's probably around 30-40 meters.
The "party hub" Bananas, which is generally a good place to have a beer and pretend it's something between a bar and night club without a dress code, looked nothing like a place I would have wanted to be at the moment.
It sure is a different world on the Wasaga strip in the winter.
Despite how narrow the shoreline is here between the water and my location the winds still managed to find enough snow to kick up to produce these blizzard like conditions!
Conditions were getting pretty bad! It was at about this point I decided to try and get out of Wasaga before nightfall closed in. With these kinds of conditions you don't want to be travelling on back roads in darkness
Left or right?
Pedro's is to the left, Pizza Pizza is to the right, what used to be a Dairy Queen is on the far left side of the frame, and a motel/hotel/coffee shop is to the right of the Pine Tree on the left.
I'm only telling you this because I spend to much time up here in the summer and clearly, you can't see anything in the video frame!
Pictures don't do this justice, it was howling and when I say howling I mean it!
What I found most unusual was that the winds were still sustained in the 60's gusting into the 70's. Usually as a a squall moves in the winds will rapidly ramp up and then quickly decrease to near zero with the heaviest snow falling straight down.
This squall was the exact opposite, it seemed to get windier as the snow rates increased and visibility fell to near zero at times.
This does not do the reality of the situation justice!
Getting out of Wasaga was substantially more difficult than getting in!
The danger here was oncoming traffic, people had no idea where the road, shoulder or anything was for that matter. Even the guy in front of me could not seem to find the road at times.
I've driven this route hundreds of times so I knew by memory where everything was, but someone who is unfamiliar with the area would have been in real trouble!
The snow rates proved impossible for my wipers to handle, it was like being a thunderstorm core.
A second problem which was causing me unnecessary grief was that the OPP had started to shut down various roads.
As a result I was forced to take a more "scenic" route home.
At the end of the day I made it home after a 2 hour drive. Unfortunately, someone was killed on highway 400 just moments behind me near highway 89.
We often forget how dangerous winter weather can be!
Here’s a brief video showing how bad things were. Moving pictures tend to do these types of situations more justice than still photos. This was definitely one of the more intense snow squalls I can remember in a while!