December 11

This Day in History

Disaster

Dec 11, 1944:

Toronto endures record snowstorm

The city of Toronto, Canada, is battered with its worst-ever snowfall on this day in 1944. Twenty-one people died as a result of the record storm, in which nearly 20 inches of snow fell in a single day.

The storm began hundreds of miles to the south near the Gulf of Mexico; it stalled after moving north over Toronto. In addition to the tremendous amount of snow, the winds from the storm were so high that visibility was reduced to nothing. The blizzard also created huge drifts that trapped people inside their homes. A streetcar on Queen Street was knocked over by the wind and snow, trapping 170 people and killing one person. All traffic and businesses in the city were shut down. Perhaps most importantly, as the storm took place during World War II, the city's ammunition factory was forced to close.

Thirteen of the 21 storm-related deaths came as a result of heart attacks caused by overexertion as people shoveled snow to dig themselves out of their homes. The Toronto Daily Star's headline the next day was "Whole City Stopped as if by Giant Hand." Mac's, a famous restaurant at the University of Toronto, had to close for the first time in its history.

Although it is difficult to measure snowfall to assess records, this blizzard was certainly close to a single-day high. In the 1998-99 winter, Mt. Baker in northeastern Washington reported its own record high—a remarkable 1,140 inches of snow. This is believed to be the all-time high for seasonal snowfall.

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