It turns out that our first two winters in Canada were just mother nature lulling us into a false sense of security. Our first winter here 2011/2012 was nicknamed “the winter that never was” and was one of the mildest on record. Sure, it felt cold to us, but the temperatures didn’t stay below freezing for long before it popped back up above zero. We have an obligation to keep the pavement/sidewalk outside the house clear of snow and as I recall we did it 3 times that winter.
Winter 2012/2013 was a similar story; we didn’t have any significant snow fall until December 26th (coincidentally, exactly the same day as the previous year). January was a rollercoaster of cold and relatively mild. February, on the other hand was very snowy. ‘Snowmaggedon’ hit midway through the month when it did not stop snowing for over 24 hours and dumped almost two feet of snow and was followed by -20C wind chills. We saw the edge of Lake Ontario frozen for the first time that month.
Fast forward to the present day and the winter of 2013/2014.
As of today, January 7th. The City of Toronto has issued 7 extreme cold alerts (periods when the temperature doesn’t rise above -15C), the entire winter last year between December and April only saw 9 alerts in total. This week alone has seen an ‘arctic vortex’ bringing windchills in the -40C….We are only 3 weeks into winter. I have shoveled the driveway around 8 times already and there is a Province wide shortage of salt due to the Ice Storm before Christmas. The edge of the lake was already frozen in December.
This winter is turning out to be nothing short of brutal. I have bottles of water in my car that have been frozen solid since November. My lawn has been under a foot of snow for the last 6 weeks. The sack of potatoes I had in my garage froze solid and had to be thrown away. The windchills we have experienced in the last few days can cause frostbite to exposed skin in just 5 minutes. At these temperatures (-25C) if you boil a kettle of water and throw it into the air it will freeze before it reaches the ground! Snow boots, a down coat, hats and gloves are every day attire, you do not leave the house without them.
Toronto is one of the southern most points of Canada and that, along with it’s proximity to Lake Ontario, means our temperatures are relatively mild compared to the rest of the country but less than a month into the winter of 2013/2014, it is already proving to be quite a challenge to us newbie expats.