Welcome one and all for another round of Mississauga Retrospective, the series where we take a quick walk down memory lane to remember a particular time, person, or event. Today’s Retrospective will be a quick one, and bundle-up because it’s sure to get chilly!
Of course, from the title you’ve gleaned that today we’re taking a look back at the worst winter in the history of Mississauga. Truth be told, this wasn’t an easy story to pull together. First of all, it’s difficult to specify what makes the worst winter, because some define it as snowfall, while others define it as temperature. Secondly and more surprisingly, there’s not a lot of records or secondary research to be read.
For example, when researching the frosty temperatures, if you can find anything that isn’t about the Yukon, you’ll find on Wikipedia it says the lowest temperature ever recorded at Pearson Airport is -31.3 Celsius in 1981. The Global News reported in 2018 that a new record low temperature had been recorded at Pearson Airport, and it was -23 Celcius, so there isn’t even any consensus. And, in reality, we all know it can and has been a lot worse than that.
Alas, figuring out the worst winter in the history of Mississauga – at least as far back as records go – isn’t very easy. So, instead of talking about the lowest recorded temperatures, we’re going to look at the highest recorded snowfall, and the results might be quite surprising.
Mississauga.weatherstats.ca, a reliable statistics website, says that, in the past 70 years, the worst recorded snowfall as actually in 2008! That season a whopping 216.5 centimetres of snow fell between January and and May, beating the previous record set of 215.5 in 1950. Thankfully, there’s a bit more information about that season, largely thanks to City News.
For those of you who can remember, what made the 2007/2008 winter so fierce was that the previous two years has been very mild; 2006 saw only 32.4 centimetres of snow! The New Year in 2008 saw wind chills as low as -26°C but, seemingly from out of nowhere, the temperature rose to a bizarre 15°C. Many hoped that meant we had endured a very short winter, but alas, it was the calm before the literal storm.
Just a few days after the influx of heat, winds of up to 107 kilometres blitzed the city, knocking down power lines and even tipping over some planes at Pearson. Temperatures plummeted so fast that a main water line at Yonge and St. Clair in Toronto burst, stopping traffic for some time. Naturally, with the unexpected cold snap, people were not prepared and there were hundreds of car crashes as a result, including a 40-50 car pile-up on the 401. In a 24 hour stretch when the cold really appeared, there was over 500 car crashes!
February then brought the real snow storms, with over 30 cm’s falling in a 24 hour period, shattering the previous record and causing a further 640 accidents. The temperatures continued to drop as the snow refused to stop and much of Ontario got buried underneath a white glaze.
March saw the snow storms let up and some of the lying ice begin to melt. Of course, just like in January, it was a false beacon of hope. March break brought about another horrid snow storm that lasted for 36 straight hours! The GTA received as much as 40 cm’s of snow across the time frame, and a further 700 accidents.
After that final death knell, the winter slowly dissipated and by late April it was almost all gone. Thus ended the worst winter in recent memory. I won’t go as far as to say the worst winter ever, despite the title, because that is more than likely erroneous. Even if 2008 was the worst of the past seventy years, there’s no doubt sometime in the 1800’s or before was far worse. Hopefully this coming winter won’t even come close to that of 2008, and remembering just how bad that one was will give us pause for thought when this year really kicks into gear. Until then, bundle up and enjoy the sight of tarmac!