Toronto gets ice storm for Christmas

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Three days before Christmas, the power went out for Toronto resident Evan Yeong. Freezing rain had assaulted Toronto for several days. The ice that built up on trees eventually caused branches to snap under the weight and fall onto power lines, leaving hundreds of thousands of residents without power. Yeong and his brother were staying at a house north of downtown, near Avenue Road and Eglinton Avenue, when they woke up to freezing cold on the morning of Dec. 22.

Luckily, Yeong’s neighbours had a working fireplace and a homemade rocket stove, which burns small wood fuel. Yeong and his brother spent the majority of their evening meals with the neighbours, but Yeong admits that during the day they just “ate a lot of sandwiches.” Despite the inconvenience, Yeong insists that his time without electricity “was not horrible.” Even though they had to sleep under a large stack of blankets each night, they still had some warmth during the day and enjoyed the evenings spent with their neighbours. To pass the time, Yeong says they played a lot of board games by candlelight.

The power came back for Yeong just after midnight on Dec. 25, but according to the Toronto Hydro Twitter page, some communities were still experiencing power loss by Jan. 6. While the City of Toronto did offer warming stations for people without power, many residents fled to hotels as well.

Damage caused by the storm added up to $106 million, according to a report from the City. That doesn’t include the losses many individuals and businesses suffered with damage to property, hotel fees and replacing food that spoiled while the electricity was out.

The report goes on to reiterate the city council’s request “that the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing declare the City of Toronto a ‘disaster area’ for the purposes of the Ontario Disaster Relief Assistance Program.” The city council also addresses a need for provincial and federal funding to help offset some of the storm clean-up costs.

While the electricity may be back on, the Toronto ice storm is still appearing on social media, this time highlighting a phenomenon dubbed “frost quakes.” In days following the cold weather, various Toronto residents have remarked on Twitter that a loud boom that woke them in the night may be related to the recent weather. The sudden drop in temperature that accompanied the ice storm may have caused water in the ground to freeze and expand, which can put stress on surrounding rock and soil until it cracks. This results in a loud boom and, in some cases, a mild quake-like shaking.

Toronto’s summer flooding and this December’s ice storm have made some residents question whether Toronto is ready for climate change. The scale of disaster caused by Toronto’s recent weather is a warning from Mother Nature, according to Franz Hartmann in his article for the Toronto Star. Hartmann goes on to insist that the city needs to prepare for climate change, insisting that physical infrastructure, like sewers, electrical systems, and urban tree canopy, need to be redesigned with future storms in mind.

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