Wind gusts could top 80 km/h as bone-chilling cold front hits Toronto

Dangerous wind chills for the next two days as the coldest air in four years arrives in Toronto and the GTA. The deep freeze will be short-lived as much milder air moves in next week.

By Lucas Casaletto

Wiarton Willie may be predicting an early spring in Ontario, but for now, it will stay bitterly cold, with a strong emphasis on Friday’s intense drop that induced bone-chilling wind chill temperatures.

Environment Canada has issued an extreme cold warning for Toronto and much of southern Ontario as cold Arctic air blankets the region, the city and parts of the GTA.

A special weather statement warning of wind gusts up to 80 km/h was cancelled just after 5 p.m.

Winds picked up late Thursday into Friday morning as a polar vortex made its presence known in the GTA. The wind gusts in other areas could top out at 50 km/h, leading to wind chill values of -30.

“This cold is quite dangerous; it could freeze flesh in a matter of minutes,” says Environment Canada climatologist David Phillips. “It could certainly lead to a risk of hypothermia.”

“But it’s not going to last very long. That’s the saving grace.”

Friday will feature the worst cold across Ontario, with the afternoon high in Toronto topping out around -15 C — a far cry from Thursday’s balmy high of -1 C.

“After moderating during the day Friday, wind chills may reach -30 C again Friday night into early Saturday morning,” Canada’s weather agency noted. “Cover up. Frostbite can develop within minutes on exposed skin, especially with wind chill.”

Overnight temperatures in the city will fall to -20 C in Toronto, with a chance of flurries. The City of Toronto says its four warming centres will remain open.

Toronto will see an immediate shift after Friday’s cold snap, reaching a high of -3 C on Saturday before getting into plus-territory on Sunday, when the daytime high hits 3 C.

The long-term forecast is subject to change, but the early start to next week is shaping up to be promising. A mix of sun and clouds is on tap for Monday, and a high of -1 C before another warm front kicks in and rain showers hit the city, with daytime highs of 4 C on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Coldest air in Toronto in years

CityNews chief meteorologist Natasha Ramsahai says the coldest temperature recorded at Toronto Pearson airport since 2000 was -26.3 C on the morning of Feb. 13, 2016, noting that Toronto is expected to see the coldest air in four years on Friday, and the chilliest recorded temperatures since Jan. 20, 2019.

“Although short-lived, the fast blast of blowing snow with the cold front passing through early [Thursday] evening could have snowfall rates as high as 2 to 5 cm per hour north of the city, dropping a fast few centimetres of snow in a very short period of time,” Ramsahai said.

Photo: CityNews.

Environment Canada also issued a snow squall warning throughout much of cottage country, including Barrie, Parry Sound-Muskoka and Algonquin, where local snowfall accumulations could be between 15 to 25 cm.

“A lobe of the polar vortex will plunge southward into Eastern Canada and the U.S.,” Ramsahai said. “Some areas in the U.S. could experience their coldest wind chills in over 30 years.”

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