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Winter weather woes

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The cold and snow has turned out to be almost too much, even for a region used to winter weather.

On Wednesday, Owen Sound city buses were pulled off the road, and warming stations were opened, while in Saugeen Shores, people were being told to stay put as vehicles were getting stuck in the roadways.

"It is terrible here. They are driving down the roads, which are just full and they are getting stuck right in them," Saugeen Shores police Sgt. Kevin Zettel said late Wednesday afternoon. "They are getting stuck in the middle of the roads and visibility is zero."

Zettel asked people to assume roads in the Saugeen Shores area were closed.

Owen Sound police chief Bill Sornberger said late Wednesday afternoon that motorists in Owen Sound were also being advised to stay off the roads.

"It is kind of the perfect storm right now because we have everybody emptying out of work and cleaning off their cars and the snow hasn't let up in the last couple of hours," said Sornberger, who added even police were having difficulty getting around the city.

"We have three all-wheel drive vehicles that we have deployed because we are having trouble getting up and down the hills and things like that," said Sornberger. "It is falling faster than crews can clean it up."

Sornberger said the city police's dispatch centre was extremely busy with calls coming in for the various police and fire services it dispatches.

"We dispatch for different services and this is hitting different services," said Sornberger. "Our radio traffic is way up."

City police issued a news release where they reminded people that police dispatchers and 911 are not the appropriate places to obtain road closure information.

Brad McRoberts, the city’s operations director, said all Owen Sound transit buses were pulled off the roads at about 4 p.m.

The decision was made by the city’s transit co-ordinator and McRoberts at about 3:45 p.m. due to poor visibility and road conditions, especially on the city’s main hills.

“For the safety of all passengers, we’ve pulled the buses,” he said.

All snow-clearing equipment was dispatched to the hills and main streets in Owen Sound, he said.

Ria Alsen, severe weather meteorologist for Environment Canada, said northern areas of Grey County, including Owen Sound, along with southern sections of the Bruce Peninsula, up to about Wiarton, were experiencing the most intense snow squall activity in the province Wednesday afternoon.

An open Lake Huron, with water temperatures warmer than the air, made for “very unstable” weather, she said.

“It’s the perfect conditions for snow squalls.”

Heavy squalls were expected to continue overnight and come to an end Thursday morning. There is a chance of flurries each day for the remainder of the week.

It wasn't just the snow that was a concern on Wednesday. Municipal buildings in Owen Sound were opened up to those looking to get in out of the cold.

Warming stations in the city are located at the Owen Sound and North Grey Union Public Library from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., at the Bayshore Community Centre from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., at the Julie McArthur Regional Recreation Centre from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. and at city hall from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. All four locations have rest areas where the public can take a break from the cold.

In a news release from the city issued Wednesday afternoon, it advised people to take care by seeking shelter during cold weather.

The news release provided seven steps to cold weather safety from Environment Canada including, listening to the weather forecast, planning ahead, dressing warmly, seeking shelter, staying dry, keeping active and being aware.

While temperatures reached -22 Celsius Wednesday morning, they are forecast to gradually warm up through the rest of the week. The forecast high for Friday is -7 C.

City manager Ruth Coursey said that normally the city waits for the Grey Bruce Health Unit to issue a cold weather alert, but decided to issue the advisory on their own on Wednesday.

"It's arguably nothing different than what we do every day. They are public buildings and people are always welcome in them," said Coursey.

"I would hate to be someone who didn't have a heated place to stay right now."

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