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

Randi MannDigital Reporter

Toronto wasn't prepared for 22.5 inches of snow during the Second World War.

This Day In Weather History is a daily podcast by Chris Mei from The Weather Network, featuring stories about people, communities and events and how weather impacted them.


On Dec. 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 (30.48 cm) of snow for that Monday. The actual amount was almost double that, with the Toronto Daily Star reporting that 22.5 inches (57.15 cm) fell.

Toronto car

(City of Toronto Archives)

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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 Dec. 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

(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. 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 the Second World War.

Toronto streetcar

(City of Toronto Archives)

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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

(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."

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Thumbnail courtesy: City of Toronto Archives