Planes, trains and automobiles: how deep freeze impacts Ottawa travel

It's no secret: today is so cold it could freeze the buttons off a snowman. Here's a look at the impact of the deep freeze across Ottawa.

Wind chill making the city feel like -39

A sidewalk plow clears in front of Parliament Hill during the January cold snap in Ottawa. (Marc-André Cossette/CBC)

It's no secret: today is so cold it could freeze the buttons off a snowman. 

The wind chill is making it feel like –39, meaning Ottawa feels colder than Winnipeg, Edmonton, Yellowknife and Whitehorse.

It may be cold here, but there's one Ontario town that has us beat. Sioux Lookout, Ont., feels like –45 with the wind chill so we can't claim the icy throne for the province. 

Here's a look at the impact of the deep freeze.


Via Rail tweeted that due to winter storm conditions, all trains in the Quebec City to Windsor corridor may be impacted. Check their website for updates, delays and cancellations. 


There were more than 40 flights cancelled Thursday due to the weather, and the delays are continuing Friday. The Ottawa airport is warning passengers to check their flight status before leaving for the airport.

The airport also has a service to clear snow from and start your car if you're returning soon. You can call them at 613-248-4304 to request assistance.


Firefighters in Ottawa are warning drivers to be extra vigilant on the roads. Be sure to watch out for black ice.

CAA is also reporting service delays due to a high volume of calls. Within 45 minutes you can get help on the road, and that extends to 90 minutes if you're somewhere considered safe. They say it will take about two hours total to get you home.

There are usually about 450 service calls in eastern Ontario on a typical winter day, said Michael Shore, the CAA's automotive services operations manager for the region.

But this winter has been so cold that even on slow days there have been around 680 calls, Shore said.

Thankfully, it's usually just battery boosts, he said.


How does OC Transpo keep their buses running in the extreme cold? 

They rotate them in and out of garages, with crews starting them up once in a while to keep the engines warm, according to Troy Charter, director of transit operations. 

"It adds another level of complexity in maintaining our fleet," he said.

As for tires, the OC Transpo team does testing and found the ones they use — which are not winter tires — work well, given that no brand of tires fit the bill for North American winters perfectly, Charter said.


One Ottawa firefighter tweeted a safety checklist for homes, too. He suggested the following:

  • Check that doors and windows are not frozen shut.
  • Leave a wide berth around space heaters; about three feet should do. 
  • Check carbon monoxide and smoke alarms.
  • Inspect pipes to make sure they won't freeze or burst.

Emergency services

Paramedics said they've received a few calls for exposure to the cold since the cold snaps began around Boxing Day, but nothing more than what's considered a normal amount.

In case of an emergency, they have a system that monitors the battery status and temperature in ambulances, so they can start them if it gets too cold. 

Police also said they haven't had trouble starting their cruisers today. 

With files from the CBC's Andrew Foote