Hear a loud boom in the night? It may have been a rare 'frost quake'
Friday, January 3, 2014, 3:43 PM -
Dangerously cold temperatures and severe wind chills have gripped much of Ontario this week.
"Bitterly cold Arctic air has established itself across southern and eastern Ontario," said Environment Canada in a wind chill warning early Friday. "In addition, a low pressure system near the lower Great Lakes continues to generate moderate northeasterly winds."
The combination of winds and Arctic air will continue to produce severe wind chill values ranging from -30 to -40 on Friday, EC warns.
The bone-chilling conditions are not only taking a toll on heating bills and car batteries, they've resulted in a rare phenomenon called "frost quakes."
Did you hear a loud boom overnight Thursday?
According to Peel Regional Police, they received over 100 calls from people who reported hearing loud booms that "sounded like gunshots" in the night.
Some even say the loud booms were powerful enough to shake their houses.
Did anyone get woken up last night by loud noises? I sure did, twice! What we were hearing were possibly Cryoseisms or frost quakes.— Peel Regional Police (@PeelPoliceMedia) January 3, 2014
I rushed upstairs cause I thought my parents fell out of bed omg. #frostquake— MAC. (@AdrianaaaaaR) January 3, 2014
It really feels like my wall is about to cave in. #frostquake ?— Terry Ghatz (@TerryGhatzz) January 3, 2014
Officials say those who heard it may have witnessed a "frost quake," also known as cryoseisms.
These occur when extreme cold temperatures freeze water deep in the soil. As it freezes, it expands, sometimes causing enough built up pressure that the ground cracks, occasionally with enough force to cause a loud "boom" sound.
According to Natural Resources seismologist Cathy Woodgold, when water in the ground freezes, it needs extra space as it expands. She says a sudden drop in temperature can build up tremendous pressure because there's no room for the expanding ice and something will suddenly crack, causing the loud bang.
Frost quakes can also happen after severe ice storms and similar sounds were reported around the GTA on Christmas Eve.
Officials say frost quakes don't pose any dangers to the public and are being reported more frequently because of social media.
Those loud booms heard around southern ON last night were "frost quakes" - water in the ground freezing, expanding and cracking. #cold— The Weather Network (@weathernetwork) January 3, 2014
RISK FOR MORE HEAVY SNOW THIS WEEKEND
In addition to the frigid temperatures and extreme wind chill values, heavy snow helped to ring in 2014 in parts of southern Ontario.
Snowfall warnings were issued for places like Hamilton and Niagara on Thursday, and Ontario Provincial Police reported seeing about one collision every two minutes due to the white out conditions in some places.
As conditions gradually improve through the day on Friday, forecasters are watching another potential weekend snowstorm.
Heavy snow could move into the region late Sunday, complicating the Monday morning commute as residents head back to school and work.
"It's not a guarantee yet that this is a snowstorm for the GTA however, we know there's going to be a storm here and because it's a back to school, back to work scenario on Monday, this is one you've got to watch over the next few days," warns Weather Network chief meteorologist Chris Scott.
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With files from The Canadian Press