The Heat Is Online

Toronto snow Jan. 1999


By Luke McCann (Reuters, Ltd.) Jan. 15, 1999

TORONTO - Canada's largest city braced for yet another blizzard after a severe winter storm buried Toronto on Wednesday, paralysing public transit and prompting the mayor to call for help from the military.

More than 15 centimetres (six inches) of snow fell, adding to 39 centimetres (15 inches) already accumulated from a storm on January 2, much of which remains on city streets.

Mayor Mel Lastman, who declared a snow removal emergency for the second week in a row, pleaded with Canada's military for help if conditions worsen tomorrow.

"We are experiencing the worst snowfall ever in Toronto and unfortunately more snow is on the way," he told reporters.

The snow cut power to uncovered areas of the subway, paralysing the system and leaving 700,000 passengers stranded and scrambling to find alternative routes to work on Wednesday morning, transit officials said. Thousands more commuters from surrounding suburbs and cities were left standing on platforms or fuming aboard double-decker suburban GO trains as switches froze in the bitter cold that followed the blizzard.

Dozens of flights were cancelled at Toronto's Pearson International Airport, where only two of the four main runways were open. "In my 22 years in Toronto I've never seen weather as bad as this," said Bob Brent, spokesman for the Toronto Transit Commission. Outdoor subway tracks could be closed for days if another storm hits the city tonight or Thursday, he added.

A winter storm watch is in effect for southern Ontario with about 25 centimetres (10 inches) of snow predicted for tonight or Thursday, said meteorologist Fritz Nivose. "It's unusual to get all these storms popping up at the same time," he said.

Since Toronto receives one of the lowest levels of average annual snowfall of any major Canadian city, it traditionally does not budget as much to remove the white stuff.

While Toronto's snow-clearing budget is the second largest among big Canadian cities at C$32.2 million after Montreal's C$54 million, it is the lowest per capita at C$13.59 compared to C$53.13 in Montreal.

The city also has the most roads to clear, some 5,100 kilometres (3,170 miles), roughly the distance across the country. "Commuters should expect a rough trip tomorrow," said David Gunn, chief general manager at the TTC. "Staying at home might be a good option."

($1=$1.53 Canadian)

(C) Reuters Limited 1999.

TORONTO, Jan. 13 (UPI) -- Heavy snowfall in southern Ontario has disrupted Toronto's transit system, and the city's mayor says he will call on the Canadian army to help if there is any more snow over the next 24 hours.

Southern Ontario received 6 inches (15 cm) of snow overnight in the third snowstorm in less than two weeks. There was already 8 inches (20 cm) of snow on the ground from a weekend storm. Environment Canada is predicting more snow for tonight, and Toronto mayor Mel Lastman has declared an emergency in city.

Toronto has already received nearly 28 inches (70 cm) of snow in the past 12 days, or more than double the average for January.

Several flights from Toronto's Pearson International Airport have been canceled, and suburban commuter trains were immobilized, but Via Rail says it has not canceled any of its services so far.

Parts of the Toronto subway system came to a halt when snow disrupted the power supply in sections of the tracks above ground. Tens of thousands of people were forced to leave the subway and catch buses.

The city's buses were unable to run on schedule, and tempers flared when people had to wait longer than usual at stops, only to find the vehicles packed when they arrived.

One bus driver said it was ``like a war zone.'' Taxis had a busy day, and commuters said it was difficult to find an empty cab. Lastman says the snow in Toronto is piling up, and the city does not have enough snow-removal equipment to deal with the crisis.

The Department of National Defense says it is watching the situation but has not yet decided whether to move the troops out.