Toronto hobbled by cold weather, chilling winds

Frigid temperatures and chilling winds wreaked havoc across the city Tuesday, paralyzing streetcars, delaying flights and leaving Torontonians in the cold.

Wind chills reach between -30 and -40 degrees

Commuters brave the cold as they board a streetcar in Toronto during a cold snap across Southern Ontario on Tuesday, January 7, 2014. (Aaron Vincent Elkaim/Canadian Press)

Frigid temperatures and chilling winds continue wreaked havoc across the city Tuesday, paralyzing streetcars, delaying flights and leaving Torontonians in the cold.

Environment Canada issued wind chill warnings on Tuesday for the city of Toronto, with wind chills reaching between -30 and -40 degrees. Winds topped 50 kilometres per hour in the evening.

TTC streetcar service was hit during the morning peak, with 40 or 50 of 200 streetcars not able to roll out, according to Chief Service Officer Chris Upfold.

Some passengers were left waiting out in the cold for at least half an hour, although the TTC sent out buses to replace service on the affected routes. 

All TTC streetcars were delayed Tuesday afternoon “due to extreme cold,” according to a tweet from the transit agency, and buses were sent out.

Upfold said aging equipment can lead to problems in the cold, including braking issues. “As much as you maintain 30-year-old equipment, it does start to have problems,” he said. 

He said many of these issues will be resolved once the new streetcar fleet is rolled out in the next few years. 

School buses were also cancelled for Toronto Catholic and Toronto District School Boards on Tuesday due to the weather, although schools remained open. The TDSB warned that school bus delays and cancellations are also possible on Wednesday and are advising parents to check their website or Twitter page for updates.

Davisville Public School was closed after a gas leak forced the school to shut off the heat, but officials said Tuesday evening that heat had been restored and the school would be open Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the Canadian Automobile Association reported almost three times more calls for service than usual. It said it typically receives on average 3,000 calls per day across south central Ontario, but on Tuesday received about 8,000 calls, mostly related to battery problems.

Relief in sight

The extreme cold also led to long delays at Pearson International Airport where a “ground stop” halted nearly all North American arrivals for several hours in the morning. About 200 flights were cancelled and many departing flights were delayed.

A spokeswoman from the Greater Toronto Airport Authority said that the extreme weather conditions affected equipment and employee safety.

Although the ground stop was lifted at around 10 a.m. this morning, it led to massive backlogs that continued into Tuesday evening, with passengers having to reschedule flights or wait hours to collect luggage.

Some airlines are cancelling flights scheduled for Wednesday morning, according to a tweet from Pearson. It advises passengers to check their flights with their airline. 

People heading outside are being told to bundle up as exposed skin may freeze in less than five minutes, Environment Canada warned.

People are also being advised to keep taps running in order to prevent pipes from freezing over.  

Relief is in sight Wednesday, with Environment Canada reporting that wind chills will improve as temperatures slowly rise and winds finally begin to ease.

A mix of sun and cloud is forecast for Wednesday, with a high of -8 degrees.