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Toronto's WWII snowstorm — Only 'essential' workers allowed to leave home

Friday, December 11th 2020, 5:30 am - Toronto wasn't prepared for "twenty-two and one-half inches" of snow during World War II.

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On December 11, 1944, Toronto was hit with the worst snowstorm in the city's history.

The city pretty much halted, causing all sorts of businesses to close for the day. You know, your schools, your public transportation services, your ammunition factories!

Toronto was not prepared for the storm. The forecast predicted 12 inches of snow for that Monday. The actual amount was almost double that, the Toronto Daily Star reported that "twenty-two and one-half inches" fell.

Toronto car Courtesy: City of Toronto Archives

With so much (and so precisely reported) snow, the city's schools were cancelled. There were 3,000 teachers and 100,000 students that got to have a snow day.

On December 12, the Toronto Stock Exchange couldn't even open, as employees couldn't make to the office on time for the "gong sounding the opening of trading at 10 a.m," the Star reported.

Toronto cars Courtesy: City of Toronto Archives

Mayor Frederick Conboy encouraged all workers to stay home unless they were of "an essential nature," a term 2020 workers can appreciate. Mayor Conboy made all of his announcements from his home, as he could not get to City Hall.

The mayor asked for volunteers to help shovel the city back to normal so war workers could get to their jobs. It was an issue that the ammunition factory had to be closed during World War II.

Toronto streetcar Courtesy: City of Toronto Archives

Everyone over the age of 16 was asked to help clear the snow.

The snowstorm caused 21 deaths, 13 of which were caused by heart attacks from shovelling.

Toronto streetcar and people storm Courtesy: City of Toronto Archives

The Star reports that it took three days for Toronto to get back to "50 per cent of normal."

To learn more about Toronto's worst snowfall, and life in the 40s, listen to today's episode of "This Day In Weather History".

This Day In Weather History is a daily podcast by The Weather Network that features unique and informative stories from host Chris Mei.

Thumbnail courtesy: City of Toronto Archives

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