“It Was So Cold That . . .”

When The Big Chill hits Canada, things can get downright scary.

Extra! Dec 2015 Weather


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Canadians know cold.

And when they talk about it, you pay attention. These reports caught our eye, not only because they made us shiver, but also because more often than not they were prefaced with “I swear this is true.” Some of these accounts may indeed be apocryphal, but taken together, they give new meaning to the phrase “It was so cold that … .”


Several children got stuck to their playground equipment and had to be thawed off; Moosomin, Saskatchewan; December 19, 1983.


When a Winnipeg hotel caught fire, a person trapped by the flames simply poured a pitcher of water out the window and slid down the icicle; December 24, 1879.


In Kapuskasing, Ontario, tires fell off the rims of cars, January 15, 1994.


The snapping cold made sleds squeak so loudly that it scared the horses; Iroquois Falls, Ontario; January 23, 1935.


When cattle peed, they had to keep moving so that the icicles they made didn’t freeze them to the ground; southern Saskatchewan; January 1938.


Outside of town, you could hear the school bus creaking 10 to 15 minutes before it reached the driveway; Saskatoon, Saskatchewan; January 1938.


Winnipeg’s old downtown Louise Bridge over the Red River shrank more than 5-½ inches; February 1, 1996.

–22° to –40°F

Lake Ontario froze hard enough for motorists to drive safely between Toronto, Ont., and Rochester, N.Y., over the lake— if the wheels on their cars would turn; February 1934. Lake Ontario has completely frozen over only twice in history: February 1934 and the winter of 1874–75.


Smoke froze in the chimney and choked out the fire, and ravens just nodded at each other rather than squawking; Rivers, Manitoba; 1948.

Frigid Factoids

  • Seawater freezes at 29°F.
  • Because mercury freezes at –38°F, alcohol is used in thermometers in colder zones. It freezes at –173°F.
  • Fifty to 70 percent of body heat is lost through the top of your head, but only if the rest of your body is covered up. (Your mother was right, as usual.) 
David Phillips, senior climatologist, Environment Canada

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