Sixteen years later: Remembering the Toronto blizzard of 1999
Wednesday, January 14, 2015, 9:19 AM - While some may remember the snow and others the presence of the army the Toronto blizzard of 1999 is for many one of the most memorable storms in our history.
On Jan. 13, 1999 after being hit by a third major snow storm in less than two weeks, Toronto Mayor Mel Lastman made a plea for the Canadian army to head into the city and assist in battling the weather.
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By Jan 15, about 400 soldiers were on the ground with another 800 standing by in case additional assistance.
While the situation in mid January was troubling the situation had started at the beginning of the year. The first snowfall left the city covered in nearly 40 centimetres of snow, crippling the downtown core.
At the time, Lastman declared a parking ban on key streets.
After a second snowstorm left the streets almost too narrow to drive through, Lastman began to worry about how emergency vehicles would be able to drive through the city. By the time a third snowstorm was announced, Lastman didn't hesitate to ask for assistance.
It was the second snow emergency declared in 1999 and it was only 13 days into the new year. Troops from CFB Petawawa drove Bisons across the city—armoured vehicles capable of carrying patients and paramedics.
Officials also asked businesses to allow their employees to stay home to alleviate the traffic on hard-to-drive-on streets. The sentiment was echoed by then Toronto Transit Commission who asked transit users to stay home.
During the storm, there was also a major concern of supplies not lasting. People were asked to check on elderly neighbours that could be trapped inside their homes without enough food. Toronto Blood Centre also revealed that it had less than a 24-hour supply for its 61 hospitals. Emergency blood clinics were scheduled for the following weekend to help the centre stock up.
In the sixteen years that followed the storm, the call for the army has been ridiculed by many Canadians but Mayor Mel Lastman remains adamant that he made the right decision.
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