First snowstorm of 2022 hits Ottawa and the overnight curfew ends in Gatineau: Five stories to watch this week

A man walks along the side walk near Parliament Hill during a snow storm in Ottawa, Thursday, Feb. 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

The first major snowstorm of the year is set to hit Ottawa, students return to school for in-person learning and Quebec's overnight curfew comes to an end.

CTVNewsOttawa.ca looks at five stories to watch in Ottawa this week.

MERIVALE ROAD EXPLOSION INVESTIGATION

The investigation will continue this week into one of the deadliest workplace accidents in Ottawa history.

One person is dead and five others are missing and presumed killed following an explosion and fire at Eastway Tank on Merivale Road last Thursday.

Dr. Louise McNaughton-Filion, Regional Supervising Coroner for East Region, told reporters that the remains of four people have been discovered in the debris, but it is "unsafe" to recover the remains at this time.

On Sunday, Deputy Fire Marshal Tim Beckett told reporters the scene is presenting many challenges for investigators, including the size of the area and the magnitude of the blast. The Office of the Fire Marshal and Ottawa Police say the cold weather and Monday's pending snowstorm will also create challenges for the investigation.

"The roof has collapsed, there is a large portion that has been completely obliterated," said Ottawa police Insp. Frank D'Aoust.

Beckett added the, "Origin and cause is the big focus" of the investigation.

RECORD-BREAKING SNOWSTORM

The first significant snowstorm of 2022 is set to bury Ottawa with a record amount of snow.

Environment Canada has issued a winter storm warning for Ottawa-Gatineau, calling for 25 to 40 cm of snow on Monday.

"Snow, at times heavy, with peak snowfall rates of 2 to 5 cm per hour possible which could significantly reduce visibilities," said Environment Canada on Sunday.

"A low pressure system tracking south of the Great Lakes will bring significant snowfall to the region. Heavy snow will likely significantly impact Monday commutes."

The record snowfall for Ottawa on Jan. 17 is 11.7 cm, set in 1972.

Ottawa has only received 5 cm of snow in January, after 38.6 cm of snow in December.

CTV News Ottawa and Newstalk 580 CFRA will have the latest on the storm, possible school bus cancellations and travel conditions all day on Monday.

BACK TO SCHOOL

Tens of thousands of students, teachers and school staff return to class in Ottawa this week for the first time since the Christmas holidays.

The Ontario government has given the green light for in-person learning to resume after two weeks of online learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"You're returning to in-person learning next week, which is so important to the health of children and youth," said medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches in a statement to teachers, support staff and students.

"And yet you're doing it in a time of Omicron, which gives rise to a lot of questions because the approach is changing. We know that there are important measures you can take to slow down COVID transmission."

Etches encourages everyone to screen for illness every day, stay home when you're sick and get vaccinated.

Both the Ottawa Carleton District School Board and Ottawa Catholic School Board have warned classes may have to move to remote learning at a moment's notice if there are staffing shortages. Parents will be advised the night before.

For more information on the return to school, you can visit the OCDSB and OCSB’s websites.

COVID CURFEW LIFTED IN QUEBEC

The Quebec government is lifting its overnight curfew on Monday as officials predict the explosive Omicron wave is coming to its peak.

The 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew was announced on New Year's Eve, the same day the province closed indoor dining in restaurants, bars and gymnasiums to deal with a rise in COVID cases and hospitalizations.

Students will also return to school on Monday in Gatineau and across Quebec. All students and teachers will be required to wear masks indoors.

As the curfew ends and students return to class, new measures aimed at reducing the spread of COVID-19 will be introduced later this month.

Starting Jan. 24, businesses with more than 1,500 square metres of space will require a proof of COVID vaccination to enter the building. The new measure will not apply to pharmacies and grocery stores.

NATIONAL CAPITAL COMMISSION BOARD MEETING

The National Capital Commission will discuss two contentious issues during its first board meeting of 2022.

The first item on the agenda for Thursday's meeting is the Ottawa Hospital Civic Campus development – Phase 2 Parking Garage and Roof Park.  Opponents are opposed to plans to build a four-storey parking structure in part of Queen Juliana Park.

In October, Council approved the site plan for the new Civic Campus on federal land between Dow’s Lake and the Central Experimental Farm. The planned site area features 44 per cent buildings and hardscape, 22 per cent buildings with green roof and 34 per cent green space and landscaping.

The other major item on the agenda is the long-term integrated Interprovincial Crossing Plan for the National Capital Region.

A draft plan published in November warned a new interprovincial crossing between Ottawa and Gatineau would not significantly reduce truck traffic in the downtown core.

The report from IBI Group for the NCC says based on current projections, a new interprovincial crossing in the east end would divert 15 per cent of heavy truck traffic downtown by 2050, while a new crossing in the west end would reduce truck traffic downtown by eight per cent.

"To achieve greater reductions and better manage goods movement, more measures will be required," said the report. "For example, changes in logistics practices or in truck routes."