OTTAWA -- Mayor Jim Watson is urging residents to work from home on Thursday as the city prepares for a major winter storm.

With an initial forecast of  up to 40 centimetres of snow expected to fall Wednesday night into Thursday, the city said it may not "meet our Maintenance Quality Standard timelines" for clearing roads and sidewalks during the storm.

A winter storm warning is in effect for Ottawa.

Late Wednesday evening, the storm warning was updated to add wetter precipitation into the mix.

Environment Canada says "Light to moderate snow currently over the area is expected to change to freezing rain late this evening or after midnight. Several hours of freezing rain are expected. The freezing rain may change to rain overnight for a brief period. The precipitation will then change back to heavy snow Thursday morning."

Speaking at the end of Wednesday’s Council meeting, Watson said we’re expecting the “most severe storm of the season.”

“To members of the public who are able to work from home, we would strongly suggest that to keep as many vehicles off the road as possible.”

The city has cancelled Thursday’s scheduled Planning Committee meeting at Ottawa City Hall.

Some federal departments have advised civil servants to work from home on Thursday if possible.

A memo to Councillors from Director of Road Operators Laila Gibbons said Ottawa could see “upwards of 50 cm of snow between today and Friday.”

Eyes on the Road

Gibbons says Ottawa crews will “begin with our priority roads, sidewalks and winter cycling networks, before moving onto our arterials. Due to the accumulation, residents can expect to see our vehicles making multiple passes in areas to prevent snow build-up.”

Gibbons adds that due to the expected accumulation, “we may not meet our Maintenance Quality Standard timelines in the city, however, we will have all available resources out and responding to the winter event.”

The City of Ottawa’s snow removal is based on a road-priority system, with high-use roads and emergency and transit routes cleared first.

After the last snowflake falls:

  • Major roads, arterials and major collectors: Within four hours
  • Minor collector roads: Within six hours
  • Residential roads and lanes: Within 10 hours

When sidewalks get cleared – after the last snowflake falls:

  • Sidewalks in the downtown core Within 6 hours
  • Downtown residential sidewalks: Within 12 hours
  • Residential sidewalks: Within 16 hours
  • Intersections and pedestrian crossings: Within 16 hours
  • Bus stops: Within 24 hours after clean up

Winter weather parking ban

Gibbons says “we anticipate calling a winter weather parking ban” Thursday evening.

If the city issues a winter weather parking ban, residents will have access to overnight parking at some City of Ottawa municipal lots. A full list is found at

Pembroke declares significant weather event

Pembroke has declared a significant weather event affecting all roads within the city.

The declaration is to notify the public that “due to the current or forecasted conditions, caution is to be observed when travelling on roads maintained by the City of Pembroke.”

The city says it may take longer than usual to bring the roads and sidewalks back to optimal conditions.

Winter parking restrictions are also in effect in Pembroke.

Petawawa declares a significant weather event

The Town of Petawawa says winter parking restrictions will be in effect for the duration of the storm, meaning no on-street parking is allowed.

The town adds “”it may take longer than usual to bring the roads and sidewalks back to optimal conditions.”