Pileup involving dozens of vehicles shuts down Highway 400 in Barrie, Ont.

A pileup in near-whiteout conditions involving dozens of vehicles closed a stretch of Highway 400 in Barrie on Monday, according to Ontario Provincial Police.

The major highway north of Toronto is now closed in both directions between Mapleview Drive and Highway 89.

Less than a dozen people were taken to hospital with minor injuries, said Sgt. Kerry Schmidt, spokesperson for OPP’s highway safety division. 

Schmidt said a fuel tanker truck and vehicles were all “jammed up” together. Motorists are being urged to avoid the area. 

“This is going to be a bit of a mess getting this cleaned up,” Schmidt said in a tweet from the scene.

Some motorists wound up crashing into the ditches. Passenger vehicles, limousines, pickup trucks and commercial vehicles are involved. Some vehicles are not damaged, but are trapped in the pileup.

Schmidt said police had difficulty getting to the scene.

“This is less than ideal conditions and we are doing the best that we can,” he said. “It’s certainly a challenging situation.”

The fire department also said some 500 litres of diesel have spilled onto the highway from a tractor-trailer, although road crews now have the leak under control.

Several heavy duty and light duty tow trucks are on the scene, where debris is strewn across the highway.

Schmidt said emergency crews are working amid blowing and drifting snow. 

“This is the situation we are dealing with — lots of wind, gusty winds, whiteout conditions, snow, blowing snow,” Schmidt said.

Both directions of Highway 400 have been shut down in the area highlighted in red following a pileup on Monday. (CBC)

South Simcoe police said in a tweet there is zero visibility in the area. The OPP recommends motorists stay off the roads in Simcoe County.

Two Barrie Transit buses are at the scene to provide shelter and warmth to people left stranded.

According to Environment Canada, a blizzard warning remains in effect for the Barrie area. 

Snow squalls, combined with strong northwest winds gusting to 70 km/h, continue to produce dangerous whiteout conditions, the weather agency said.

People stand on top of vehicles after the pileup on Highway 400 in whiteout conditions. (Sgt. Kerry Schmidt/Ontario Provincial Police)

“Consider postponing non-essential travel until conditions improve,” Environment Canada said.

York Region Paramedic Services is expected to bring its “multi-patient emergency response” unit to the scene, Samantha Hoffmann, public information officer for Barrie Fire and Emergency Service, told CBC Toronto.  

“Most of the injuries reported have been minor in nature,” she said.