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Fourteen cold, hard facts about Toronto’s frigid weather

toronto

Cold, hard facts about life in the big city

A lot of adult Torontonians have never seen such a frosty stretch in their lives – and many young kids don't seem to care

Joey Gladding stickhandles a puck on a frozen Lake Ontario near Toronto Island on Jan. 2, 2018.

While more-northern Canadian cities may mock Toronto residents for being ill-adjusted to the cold, the past several days have been downright frosty here. Although temperatures have been creeping up again, they are set to sink back to below -25 C on the weekend. In light of the Arctic temperatures, here are some facts about how gosh-darn cold it is.

It's so cold in Toronto that:

1) No one alive has experienced a New Year's Eve this cold in the city

This winter had the coldest New Year's Eve in 158 years. According to Environment Canada, the mean temperature for the day was -18.6. Environment Canada's observations for Toronto date back to 1844, and the coldest year on record for the day of Dec. 31 was in 1859, also with a temperature of -18.6. "It's a badge of courage for Toronto," said David Phillips, senior climatologist for Environment Canada.

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2) Toronto Polar Bear Club cancelled its annual dip for the first time since it started in 2005

Because of dangerous and icy conditions on the lake shore, the Toronto Polar Bear Club cancelled the dip that in previous years brought out hundreds of people. But many disappointed Toronto residents did dips of their own, diving in the snow and jumping into Lake Ontario. The hashtag "Dare to dip" was shared widely on social media. "It was refreshing, let's put it that way," said Dirk Albishausen, a Toronto resident who shared a video of his plunge into the snow.

3) Toronto's old street cars are not faring well

Between 20 and 30 of the city's old street cars have been failing every day in the recent cold. The Toronto Transit Commission decided earlier this week to make up for these failures by rejigging its service plan. The agency raided bus routes to put replacement vehicles on two main routes in the old city where streetcars usually run.

4) A duck froze to the surface of Lake Ontario

Toronto resident Dale Roddick was out for a walk on Dec. 28 when he noticed a group of mallard ducks along the shore of Ashbridges Bay. One duck did not fly away but sat on the ice when he approached, Mr. Roddick said. He said he realized it was frozen to the ice, unable to move. He bent down and warmed up the duck's feet with his hands and began breathing on its belly to release the feathers that had frozen to the ice. "It felt good to save him," Mr. Roddick said.


Dale Roddick freed a duck from the ice at Ashbridge’s Bay in Toronto.


5) This is the longest cold stretch Torontonians under the age of 36 have ever seen

Toronto has been living through one of the longest cold snaps in recent memory. Starting on Boxing Day, Toronto has had significantly colder weather than usual. The most comparable cold snap was a 10-day stretch in January, 1982.

6) Toronto has had 48 water-main breaks so far in 2018

Cold temperatures often cause water mains to burst as soil freezes then expands, putting pressure on pipes. Last January, the city had 152 water-main breaks, so we've already seen about a third of that in the past three days.

7) You can get frostbite within 30 minutes

In -20 weather, to which Toronto is now no stranger, frostbite and its precursor, frostnip, can occur after just 30 minutes outside. The higher the wind chill and the lower the temperature, the greater the risk of frostbite or frostnip, and the faster they can happen. Toronto Public Health recommends bundling up and covering exposed skin as much as possible.

8) The Canadian Automobile Association has been called to help 38,808 people with car trouble since Christmas

From Dec. 26 to Jan. 1, tens of thousands of car drivers from Kingston to Windsor called the CAA for roadside assistance. That is a 56-per-cent increase from the same time period the year before. CAA estimates that 40 per cent of those calls were from the Greater Toronto Area. Callers on Jan. 1 had to wait at least an hour on average, and the waits have not improved.

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Maya and Hannah Mittelstaedt skate across the frozen Toronto harbour on Jan. 2, 2018.


9) Toronto harbour is frozen and people are walking – and skating – on it

The Toronto harbour looks like the Arctic these days, with wind-swept ice and snow taking over the waterfront. Some Torontonians rang in the New Year by skating on the harbour and sharing photos and videos widely on social media. Others were seen trekking across the partly frozen water, but police have cautioned residents against such activities.

10) Dog walks should be short if you don't have doggie jackets and boots

Toronto Animal Services said pets should not be outside for longer than 30 minutes unless they have shelter or gear. Without insulated doggy houses, boots and jackets, pets should not be left out in the cold for long.


From left: Ruby, BooBoo and Lex wear cold-weather gear while out for a walk at Cherry Beach on Jan. 3, 2018.

Dogwalker Kelly Manis walks her pack down by the frozen water at Cherry Beach on Jan. 3, 2018.


11) Activists have pressed the city to open the armouries as emergency shelter for the homeless

After confusion on the weekend about the availability of shelter space for the homeless in Toronto, activists have been pushing for the armouries to be opened for emergency shelter, which has happened four times before. The mayor said on Wednesday the city was in talks with Ottawa about it.

12) Toronto residents bumped through 5,322 potholes (that they reported) in the past month

Environment Canada called 2017 the year of potholes for Ontario. The city filled almost 200,000 in 2017. While that is close to average, this weather is hard on roads, especially once spring comes and roads thaw, then freeze again. That means we have not seen the worst yet.

13) Metrolinx crews are being told to spend as little time outside as possible

The overnight crews patrolling switches and GO tracks for the province's regional transit agency to ensure they have not been damaged by the wintery chill are being told to limit the time they spend outside their vehicles, and to bundle up in heavy clothing when they venture out.


Two girls sort through twigs to make hanging ornaments at Evergreen Brick Works on Jan. 3, 2018.

Children gather around the open fire while roasting apple slices at Evergreen Brick Works on Jan. 3, 2018.


14) Kids are not afraid of the cold

While this weather has many people cancelling plans and staying inside, some of the city's youngest are braving the weather. Evergreen Brick Works runs a winter camp for kids aged 6 to 12, and program director Cam Collyer said it is rarely the kids who need persuading to go out. "Frankly, it's a lot more fun for the kids outside," Mr. Collyer said. The camp encourages parents to bundle their children up for the weather, and they have outdoor fires to stay warm while playing outside.

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With reports from Oliver Moore and The Canadian Press

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