“The other day, when it was so cold, a friend of mine went to buy some long underwear. The shopkeeper said to him, “How long do you want it?” And my friend said, “Well, from about September to March.”
That’s a quote from Mary Poppins, for anyone who didn’t watch the film so many times as a child that they can still recite it line-by-line.
Having just emerged from the longest, harshest winter of my life, I wonder whether Uncle Albert’s friend had been planning a trip to Toronto.
Warning: This section contains detailed information about the weather. If that’s likely to bore you, please feel free to focus on the pretty pictures below and ignore my meteorological musings:
Friends in the UK started asking how cold it was here as soon as we moved to Toronto last July. “30C!” I replied, gleefully. And there it stayed, more or less, for the next two months.
I relished the predictability of hot summer days and nights, though feared the inevitability of plunging winter temperatures.
The impending seasonal shift intrigued me: How cold does it really get here? Is it dangerous? Will my contact lenses freeze to my eyeballs (Google told me probably not)? Should I overcome my aversion to furs?
The slideshow below tracks how the climate’s changed since we’ve been here.
As the pictures show, a roasting summer led to a progressively cooler September.
By Thanksgiving weekend in the first week of October, it was bitter, at around -6C with wind chill – and even colder in cottage country.
“Fall” was a cold and short-lived, but stunning, season of fiery hues of yellow and orange warming the bluey greens of lake and sky.
After Christmas, it suddenly bucketed with snow, turning the weather unpleasantly “frigid”, as they like to say on this side of the pond (teehee).
For over a month, -25C wind chill wasn’t out of the ordinary. Industrial slabs of cracked ice paralysed the harbour and jagged frost sprouted like cacti over our windows.
After admitting during an ill-advised walk in a snowstorm that my “warm winter coat” was nothing of the sort, I embraced the ubiquitous Toronto uniform of snow boots and goose down jacket – a small sartorial (and not insignificant financial) decision that truly rocked my world. Venturing outside during the Toronto winter is totally plausible with the right outdoor gear.
There’s also the PATH system, effectively 27km of interlocking shopping malls and food courts, which keeps you warm – and well fed – as you wander from A to B in the city centre.
While it may have been a cold winter, it wasn’t a damp, gloomy affair. There was a ton of sunshine, it hardly ever rained and the snow made for fun weekends spent skiing, tobogganing and ice skating at the free outdoor rinks dotting the city.
March and April have dragged on a bit. There’s been the odd moment of T-shirt weather interspersed with snow, hail and – more recently – lots of rain (boo).
This has been the first week in which temperatures have climbed into the 20s, and the city’s already undergone a tangible transformation.
The other day I watched a bare-legged girl absently ripping juicy chunks from a whole mango on the bus. I inhaled BBQ smoke seasoning the downtown air and darted out of the way of puffing joggers patrolling the waterfront in micro shorts. The party boat’s back in its summer mooring and yachts are zipping around the harbour once again.
The trees may still be shorn of their leaves, and yep, it actually snowed yesterday, but something strange and rather wonderful is definitely afoot. If I’m not mistaken, it’s Spring.