Text by Damian W.K. Baranowski
- Toronto’s Storm of ‘99
Despite being in a country that prides itself on handling the cold, it seems we can’t take the heat when a major snowfall does occur.
On the morning of January 17, 2022, a blizzard hit Southern Ontario dumping 36 centimetres of snow on Toronto.
Despite being in a country known for how harsh the weather can be, Toronto was not prepared for this onslaught. Streets and highways backed up, and transit vehicles stalled. Services were delayed and many rides were cancelled.
On the optimistic side, ironically because of the pandemic, it could have been much worse. With most people working at home, there were fewer people to deal with. However, for those who needed to still get to point B, it was hell on snow!
The TTC faced a harsh snow day, with delays on virtually all surface routes. By the end of the day, it was reported there were 540 buses stuck in the snow — the TTC’s scheduled rush hour service calls for 1,450 buses to operate. Snow clogged the threads in the buses tires, and clogged under the undercarriages, making the buses impossible to maneuver. Drivers were left with no choice but to leave the vehicles where they were. Two days later, 132 buses were still stuck. Videos shared on social media showed passengers who were on a 35 JANE bus pushing it to get it going. Though it was seen as a light-hearted and affirming moment during the storm, a contact at the TTC warned that passengers should not be called on to push buses, for fear of injury and liability concerns.
The storm even affected the subway, disrupting service on open-cut portions, stopping service between Bloor-Yonge and Lawrence and between St. Clair West and Sheppard West stations on the Line 1 YONGE-UNIVERSITY subway, and between Woodbine and Kennedy and between Islington and Kipling on the Line 2 BLOOR-DANFORTH subway. The Line 3 SCARBOROUGH RT, which is entirely outdoors and particularly susceptible to disruption from snow-covered rails, was shut down entirely. It would not be until January 23 that service would resume.
Many Torontonians who had to use the TTC were obviously not thrilled with the results and many media outlets did mention this. The Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 113 (the Union that supports TTC workers) said in a statement released to Global News, “To protect workers and riders, ATU Local 113 calls on the TTC to be better prepared for snowstorms by implementing a service plan in which vehicle accumulation levels are assessed and a hazardous service level is determined.”.
Some did take to social media to thank the transit workers who did their best to battle the storms, however. And while the TTC suffered a lot during the storm, many car drivers fared little better, as Toronto Police were forced to shut down the Don Valley Parkway and the Gardiner Expressway due to unsafe conditions. There were reports of drivers stuck for up to eight hours on Highway 401. Cyclists complained about bike lanes not being plowed out. Nothing was really the better way that day — only skiers had an easier time (Star columnist and urbanist Shawn Micallef recorded himself crossing the city in this fashion)
GO Transit also had their snow day troubles, with train delays and train and bus cancellations, including the popular 16 HAMILTON-TORONTO EXPRESS route and the UP Express train. Services were already being disrupted due to many workers being sick with COVID. Other transit agencies across the GTA faced similar problems, with most of southern Ontario closing schools and calling on individuals to stay off the roads if they could.
Though there was a tremendous amount of disruption, it is only what was to be expected from a major winter storm in Canada.
Personal End Note
As of writing (January 19) this the city is still recovering from the blizzard, but things are looking better now than on Monday. I agree that there should be better planning for the next time something like this happens.
On one hand, you can’t predict how bad it will get, but on the other, it’s better to be safe than sorry and have a backup already on the line. I don’t work at the TTC and I don’t know fully the process of how these situations are dealt with (maybe later in the year I might get more info and do an article or video on that). I’m sure there are many people working very hard trying to get things right, but I also know that, in stressful times, mistakes are bound to happen.
In one sense like with the pandemic, it’s something we didn’t think much of at first, but then once it got bad, we realized we should have taken it more seriously.
Maybe this will inspire the cities and transit agencies of Southern Ontario to have a better “Plan B” during bad weather like this. But then again what if the next storm throws a curveball? What if it’s less severe and we wasted tax dollars on overreacting?
Like I said before, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
I would like to thank all transit workers who went to hell and back to get us around as best as they could during the blizzard, as well as all the city workers who helped get the streets cleared and anybody else who went to work that day. I would also like to thank the people who helped me with this article by providing info and pictures as well.
Be sure to look at the photo gallery below, from transit fans documenting this event.
Thank you all and stay safe!
Blizzard 2022 Image Archive
TTC Flexity LRV 4483 finds itself at the front of a snowbound line of streetcars on King Street during the blizzard of 2022. 504 KING service was stalled out not only due to the snow, but due to stalled out TTC buses on Spadina Avenue blocking King Street. Photo by Bradley O'Brien
504 KING shuttle buses are seen here, stalled out and in disarray on Queen Street West, looking west from the Queen-Dufferin underpass. Bradley O'Brien took this photo during the Blizzard of 2022, on January 17, 2022.
TTC Novabus #8801 sits abandoned on Yonge Street, caught in the storm during the night of January 17, 2022, while on the 320 YONGE NIGHT route. Later in the day, the YONGE subway would shut down between Blooro and Lawrence thanks to the weather, but road conditions were so bad that no bus shuttle service could be provided. Passengers had no option but to walk.Photo taken during the 2022 Blizzard by Bradley O'Brien.
TTC Orion VII "Next Gen" bus #1286 may look like it's faring better than the buses behind it, but it's also stopped, southbound on Victoria Park, due to the weather. This shot was taken by Derek Craig during the Blizzard of 2022.
Durham Region Transit Novabus #8554 is faring better than some of its comrades elsewhere in the GTA, as it plies the 407 RITSON route during the snowy early morning hours of January 17, 2022. Damian Baranowski took this photograph.
TTC Novabus #8603 stalled out during the storm westbound on Lakeshore at Kipling, and had to be left behind. When the plows arrived, they plowed around the vehicle. This shot was taken on the afternoon of January 17, 2022, in the aftermath of the Blizzard.
Runnymede Station's bus terminal looks silent and eerily peaceful without buses or passengers, only snow, in this shot taken during the aftermath of the Blizzard of 2022 by Brian Walker.
While Hamilton didn't receive as heavy a snowfall as Toronto, the Hamilton Street Railway faced its own problems with snow during the Blizzard of 2022. Two HSR buses stare down the snow-covered roadway at McNab Terminal in this shot taken by Brandon Campanella-Archer.
Burlington Transit Novabus #72102 is snowbound in downtown Hamilton during the Blizzard of 2022. This photo was taken by Brandon Campanella-Archer.
Steven Sansano was out in the thick of the Blizzard on the morning of January 17, 2022, catching YRT VIVA bus 5318 stopping at the Highway 7 and Credistone VIVA bus stop
Steven Sansano braved the height of Blizzard 2022 when he snapped this photo of YRT Novabus #1609 northbound on Bathurst at Carrville in 88 BATHURST service. This shot was taken on the morning of January 17, 2022.
Patrick Shepherd caught this image of two snowbound TTC Novabuses at the corner of Victoria Park and Lawrence in the aftermath of the Blizzard of 2022.
Lion Liu caught this shot of TTC Novabus Hybrid #3696 left behind at Meadowvale Loop among the snow, as the skies clear from the blizzard on the afternoon of January 17, 2022
The storm cleared in the middle of the day, with skies clearing in the afternoon. Gabor Gyuree caught snowbound TTC Novabus Hybrid #3629 facing the setting sun on January 17, 2022.
Steven Sansano caught this view of YRT Orion bus #915 in service on the 96 KEELE-YONGE route in the late afternoon of January 17, 2022, after the storm had cleared, and residents in the GTA were treated to some spectacular sunset views.