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For the second year in a row, the Family Day long weekend (including Valentine’s Day) will feature the coldest weather of winter for Ontario. That said; there is also an event set to arrive Friday that will impact an already busy end-of-week commute.

Polar Vortex makes a triumphant return, brings record cold

Dr. Doug Gillham
Meteorologist, PhD

Friday, February 12, 2016, 6:30 AM - The Polar Vortex became a popular (and frequently misused) buzzword during the past two Canadian winters. However, during the upcoming holiday weekend, it is actually correct to say that the Polar Vortex will track across Ontario. This will be associated with record cold and dangerous wind chills for the Valentine’s/Family Day weekend.

An arctic cold front will cross southern Ontario Friday afternoon and evening, bringing with it an expected 30-minute burst of snow. While accumulations will not be substantial (1-3 cm), most of the snow will fall in a short period of time, and during the busier part of the day for commuters. The front is expected to cross the Greater Toronto Area during the afternoon/evening commute with the potential to briefly reduce the visibility to near zero in open areas.

That's on top of snow that will have fallen during snow squalls that have dumped up to 30 cm on communities on or near Lake Huron and Georgian Bay on Thursday.

In addition, lake effect snow flurries and squalls are likely south of Georgian Bay and Lake Huron during Friday and Saturday. Blowing and drifting snow will make for difficult travel in these regions.

Return of the bitter cold

The biggest weather story for the weekend will be the potential for record cold for both Saturday and Sunday morning. At Toronto's Pearson Airport, the record low for Saturday is -23.2 °C (set in 1979) and the record for Sunday is -23.3°C (set in 1943), and both of these records are in jeopardy. The wind chill will drop below -30 across most of southern Ontario and could reach -40 across parts of central and northern Ontario. Daytime temperatures on Saturday will struggle to get above -20°C north of Toronto.

But it won't last

While temperatures this weekend will rival the coldest weather that we saw last February, the good news is that the frigid weather will not last nearly as long. By Monday afternoon temperatures will be just a few degrees below seasonal. However, we are keeping an eye on a significant system that will track south of the U.S. border early next week. This system has the potential to bring snow to parts of southern and eastern Ontario and impact travel to start the short work week. The exact track of the system is still uncertain, but the storm could impact parts of southern Ontario as well, including the Greater Toronto Area. Stay tuned for updates on this winter storm.

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