Friday September 16, 2016

Facing the Change: How extreme weather is already putting Toronto residents at risk

A lightning bolt strikes the CN Tower in Toronto as heavy winds and rain batter the city and cause delays for people trying to get around on July 25, 2016.

A lightning bolt strikes the CN Tower in Toronto as heavy winds and rain batter the city and cause delays for people trying to get around on July 25, 2016. (Mark Blinch/Canadian Press)

Listen 12:29

Extreme weather and high temperatures are putting pressure on Toronto's aging infrastructure, and city residents are already feeling the heat.

Canada's largest urban centre is being featured in "Facing the Change," a special Day 6 series about the impact climate change is having right now in towns and urban centres across the country.

Heat waves and extreme storms are on the rise across Canada, and Toronto is no exception. By 2050, the city of Toronto says summer temperatures could hit 44 degrees Celsius.

Toronto storm

Extreme thunderstorms are expected to become more frequent as a result of climate change, increasing the risk of basement flooding and extended power outages. (Donna Lypchuk/Canadian Press)

Climate scientists also predict an increase in the intensity of rainfall and thunderstorms in the coming years. In July 2013, Toronto residents got a glimpse of that future when a particularly bad thunderstorm swept through the city, flooding the streets with a record-setting 126 millimetres of rain in a matter of hours.

The storm flooded Toronto's subway system and left tens of thousands of people without power, highlighting the vulnerability of Toronto's aging infrastructure. According to one city official, 25 per cent of Toronto's electrical infrastructure is currently past its intended lifespan.

Thunderstorm

A severe thunderstorm in July 2016 turned many Toronto streets into mini-rivers, including Roncesvalles Ave. (Andrew Lupton/CBC)

We speak to Blair Feltmate, a climate scientist and the head of the Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation at the University of Waterloo, about the risks facing Toronto and how they relate to other cities across Canada.

We also hear from David MacLeod, a senior environmental specialist with the City of Toronto; Roslyn Brown, the vice-president of a local property management company; and Toronto resident and single mother Bev Silva, who was forced to sell her family home after her insurance was cancelled in the wake of the 2013 flood.