Woonerf in Toronto

Woonerf: It’s Dutch for smart city-building
March 14, 2010 by Christofer Hume (Toronto Star)

The really big news in Toronto right now is that woonerfs are coming to town. In case you don’t speak Dutch or happen to be a planner, woonerfs are streets designed for cars and people, but with precedence given to the latter.

What? you may well ask: Pedestrians given precedence over drivers? In Toronto? Is this yet another example of the gathering War on the Car? Quick, someone call Rocco Rossi. The poor man will no doubt be appalled to learn that the neighbourhood now under construction in the West Don Lands will be organized around a grid of these new-fangled streets.

“The idea is to give pedestrians priority,” explains Waterfront Toronto’s vice-president of planning, Christopher Glaisek. “Woonerfs are a new street typology. They won’t look like anything we’ve seen in Toronto.”

Rest easy Rocco, he’s not talking about remaking Yonge, or even Jarvis – though we can hardly wait for that – Glaisek is referring to the network of secondary roads that will be built in the area west of the Don River, south of King St. Until recently, this was a wasteland. That’s all changed; for several years, an enormous “flood protection landform” has been under construction in anticipation of future development. It will also be the site of the 2015 Pan-Am Games’ Athletes’ Village, and after that, up to 12,000 permanent residents.

So what is a woonerf exactly? Picture a regular street, but narrow, minus a curb, finished with pavers instead of asphalt.

“There’ll be a slight grade change to show where the curb would be,” says Glaisek. “We’re probably using stones to mark it. It’s a visual treatment that makes it known to drivers that that they are guests.”

Though laneways would have served much the same purpose, the city doesn’t provide services to alleys – but that’s another story. That’s why the most remarkable aspect of the project is that it’s happening at all.

“The city has approved the concept,” Glaisek says. “It’s what we’re going ahead with. It required the city to think outside the box and go beyond what they’re used to. They wouldn’t have thought of this on their own. In my view, this is a tremendous success.”

No kidding. The struggle to make Toronto more liveable typically revolves around fiscal issues – jobs, taxes and the like. Rarely do we focus on anything as basic as the streets beneath our feet, unless it’s to complain about potholes. But as Dutch and other European centres have discovered, something as simple as a woonerf can have a huge impact on our approach to the shared spaces of the city.

The West Don Lands remain a mountain of mud, but we can expect construction to begin within a year. When that happens, Toronto will truly have turned a corner, or should that be a woonerf?

Uit de commentaren:

One has to remember
That amsterdam is FLAT thus very easy to walk and bike. Their cyclists are even more unruly than Toronto cyclists , although they ride on the road they rarely obey traffic signals or give way to pedestrians on the crosswalk. Amsterdam is for cyclists first everyone else last. Pedestrians in amsterdam are watchful and wary, they need to be. The other problem in Holland in general is that in a very few years almost 40% of it will be under the sea. Wonder if we could convince their displaced to come here? Toronto needs to create a car free zone in the downtown core. The narrow streets with centre drains and raised cycle lanes is a great idea. Public transport only and deliveries restricted to early morning and over night. This has worked beautifully in some pedestrianized areas in Europe. Bollards enforce the curfew. Public transport has transponder which operates bollard. Maybe we should tel the city fathrs where to spend their next vacation.

totally awesome .. !!!
I had the good fortune to go to Amsterdam a few years back, and the thing that struck me the most was the lack of a “car mentality” that I witnessed in the city.. Their were cars of course, but it seemed pedestrians were given their rightful place in the pecking order.. people walked and rode bikes. a lot.. What did I witness as a result..? People were fitter and seemed happier.. I can honestly say, I saw very few fat people their, except for North American tourists.. I think this is an amazing idea to try out with the new development taking place.. that and the railpath development going on now in the city gives me hope for the future of this city ! and yes, I do own a car..

Sense of proportion and civic pride goes with Dutch planning
Another interesting feature of cities and towns in Holland is their ‘sense of proportion’. Their terrains are not blighted by soaring towers, big-box malls and monster subdivisions. It must be a sign of an ‘old culture’ when politicians show respect for urban planning practices that have served the populace well for more than a century. There is a human dimension to Dutch towns, and that is why humans have been given priority in transportation. This culture was not solely designed around the automobile as has been done in North America. BTW, Holland does get snow and ice, particularly this year. When the canals are frozen, my Dutch cousins love to use their skates. Ever heard of the Eleven City Race? It was not held this year because there was too much snow, and the Dutch don’t use zambonis on the canals.

Toronto,
a city constantly in the edge of bankruptcy because of over government spendings. Whatever money there is left now should be used to pay back her debts. It is totally shocking to hear that someone is suggesting “new” ways to spend more ! “Dutch for smart city-building” is the Dutch’s business. None of ours because Toronto has no money but lots and lots of debts. Toronto’s “smart city-building” is to repay her debts first. The $100 millions belong to the creditors.

This ain’t Holland

Just put up a big gate at the core city limits and put all vehicles off limits. Walk or bike – end of story. That way all the left-wing tree huggers can get what they want. Business can then move elsewhere and the stupidity of Toronto Real-estate prices will crash. Sound funny? Have a look at Detroit – nearly a century of left wing democratic mayors and look where it left them?! Folks you can’t have it both ways and you can’t have it all. Cars have to drive carefully, but pedestrians have to take the earbuds out, stop texting while walking and obey the traffic signals. How do you like me now?! LOL!

Funny
Great article. Funny how some people can be so fiercely negative about any kind of city planning that makes for a more livable city… too much cost! Darn lefties! (as if you had to be left-wing to want to stroll down a pleasant street) And yet if you showed them to some of the beautiful, planned streets in Europe, they would say, “well of course you can’t make this a high-speed car thruway, there are people walking all around enjoying themselves, living their lives, shopping. That’s just how it is in this place.

What we tend to forget
when we hasten to import ideas from elsewhere is that the local climatic conditions may make the idea impractical for adaptation. How much snow does Holland have in comparison with Toronto? The experience in shovelling snow off a driveway that has been converted from asphalt to pavers makes me wonder about the impact of “woonerf” on snow removal. Or has that been ignored in the rush to adapt something new? Furthermore, taking out sidewalks from streets will increase the number of pedestrian-vehicle encounters leading to injuries and even death. I cannot understand why people do NOT walk facing the traffic where there are no sidewalks. They walk two and three abreast, oblivious of the car that is following behind them, trying to find an opportunity to pass.

Canada lacks 2 centuries building infrastructure.
In Amsterdam everything is just around the corner, not a twenty minute drive away. Sadly apples are not oranges even when you dream in technicolour.

The Dutch know a thing or two
The Dutch know what they are doing but as usual, their expertise will be tossed out in the end. Just look at New Orleans after Katrina. The Dutch said build dykes, build high and strong dykes. Did New Orleans listen? Of course not. Is Toronto listening? Well maybe Toronto ‘hears’ ,but are we ‘listening’? Just wait and see, and wait, and wait, and wait and wait and…..

 

Six men can’t pry bear off victim

“I grabbed my best knife. When I got there the victim was being thoroughly gripped by the bear with his paws and it was chewing on his back. It was a horrific sight,” Mr. Stirling said yesterday.

The bear was standing, doggedly gripping its victim with its teeth and front paws while four men tried to pry it off with fishing gaffs – strong poles with hooks designed for lifting heavy fish – with such force that they bent the poles. Another man was beating the animal’s head with a hammer before he picked up a 10-centimetre blade and stabbed it repeatedly.

Mr. Stirling pleaded with the other man to stop annoying the bear with his “tiny” knife, then stepped forward with his chosen weapon, a Swedish filleting knife with a 30-cm blade.

“I was saying, ‘Where is his head?’ When I could see his throat, I reached in stabbing. I could hear blood flowing. I figured I got his jugular.”

The victim, a 52-year-old Saltspring Island man whose name has not been released, is in stable condition in a Victoria hospital.

The initial results of a necropsy performed on the bear by a vet yesterday showed the animal was very old, skinny and in poor health.

Mr. Stirling said the animal was completely focused on its victim throughout the attack, which lasted about five minutes.

“It was premeditated. He went straight for him and there is nothing you could do to prevent it. Any one of us could have been the victim – I was surprised he didn’t choose me because I was the only one on the dock cleaning fish.”

Bud Watt, one of the first rescuers on the scene, said someone tried to distract the bear with fish but it seemed intent on bigger prey.

“It never let go until it was dead,” he said. “It didn’t know we were there.”

Mr. Watt, the owner of the Port Renfrew Marina, where the attack took place, said the bear swam a short distance across an estuary where the marina is located and vaulted straight over the back of the boat at the man.

“This was a pretty humbling experience. There’s a 200-pound bear, and 700 pounds of men can’t move the damn thing,” he said. “They always seem such lethargic beasts when you see them walking along the beach, but when you see the damage they can do, they aren’t cute anymore.”

He said it never occurred to him to do anything but run toward the attack.

“Everyone was thinking, ‘We got to stop this thing or this guy’s going to die.’ No way anyone could sit around and watch.”

The marina is in a remote area known for black bears, a two-hour drive west of Victoria, and a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Environment said conservation officers had to put down a bear just a few weeks ago in the area because of aggressive behaviour.

But Kate Thompson said this attack was unusual. “This was a very aggressive bear. When you have five or seven people fighting it and it wouldn’t back off, it’s oddball behaviour.”

Ms. Thompson said roughly 700 bears are killed each year in B.C. because of conflicts with humans, but this has been an especially bad year in some areas because a poor season for berries has starved many animals.

The Port Renfrew incident was the seventh bear attack on a human in B.C. this year, but the first one on Vancouver Island since 2005.

Fans doff fuzzy, orange top hats

Cover Nul (Dutch for ”zero”). However, many of the orange-clad fans would have been happy to fork over a few guilders if it meant they didn’t have to stand in line. Betty’s reached capacity 10 minutes before game time, leaving a long line of orange-clad fans stretching on to their tippy toes to watch the game through the bar’s windows.

A BOUNCER AND A GENTLEMAN

While less forgiving souls could have become curt with the endless queue-jumpers, Betty’s beefy bouncer was an absolute dear. "I’m so sorry, but we’re just full of people," he said over and over in a pleasing British accent, suggesting they try swinging by Veritas, a restaurant two doors down, where no one had to wait outside. Number of times he was forced to say this At least 20 times; the sincerity of his smile never wavered.

SOURCE OF STIFF UPPER LIP?

"We’re not even playing in the cup, so it doesn’t matter to me!"

Snacks! in the shape of soccer balls! The treat of the game was the hot and gooey bitterballen, a ball filled with beef and some yummy creamy substance covered with bread crumbs, courtesy of Betty’s and Dutch Treat, the organization that hosted the party.

Drink A lone fan wore an orange top hat advertising Heineken, but everyone at Betty’s was raising Grolsch beer. Even the guy with the top hat.

Netherlands attire These Dutch really know how to put a lid on it: Several obligatory fuzzy, orange top hats blocked the TVs, others wore hats in the shape of clogs, windmills, bonnets and even a neon orange cow.

The crowd goes wild They may not have the mass appeal of the Italian, Greek, or Portuguese fans in Toronto, but these Dutch fans just went nuts. With the first goal, only a few minutes into the game, horns blasted, crackers crackled, shouts and hollers and hoots, and Grolsch spilled everywhere. I am a little hard of hearing because of it.

MOMENT OF THE GAME

France had just scored on the Netherlands, making it 3-1, but faces all around the packed bar were drawn. One man oddly chanted, "One more! One more!" And then, there was! You can imagine the craziness that ensued. And now, I am almost completely deaf. Score They don’t always go Dutch: Netherlands wins, 4 -1.

Total domination provides Dutch treat for Oranje Army

One felt sorry for those French fans, dryly ironic in their French team shirts, berets and big plastic baguettes. They were certainly cute and rather sweetly self-deprecating, but they’ve got nothing on the Oranje Army. It is emphatically orange, enormous and united. Like the Dutch team, this time.

And France got a sharp, shocking taste of the Dutch style of soccer here in last night. They were given a master class in dazzle, the sort of freewheeling, always-in-search-of-a-goal soccer that the Dutch suddenly epitomize again. At this tournament, the Netherlands has now defeated both the World Cup champions Italy and runners-up France, with stunning ease. It has qualified for the next round, with a game to spare.

This particular Dutch team, more so than the last few incarnations, is rooted in the style of the original Dutch invention, Total Football.

The Dutch brought Total Football to fruition in the 1970s. As a kid I remember the stunning, endless movement of it taking the Netherlands to two World Cup finals. Before that, the Ajax team had come to dominate European club soccer using the same system. It’s certainly a system, but as soccer systems go, this one was both revolutionary and incredibly entertaining.

It involves everyone moving constantly, supporting the entire team in a collective, attacking-and-defending effort. A player who moves out of position is automatically replaced by another from his team, whether it’s a striker stepping in to defend or vice-versa. It’s ceaseless and fluid and confounds the opposing team. A defender assigned to mark a striker is suddenly marking defender who has gone on the attack. For the team playing Total Football, unity and intuitive collective understanding is everything.

The potential for Total Football is obvious – it bedazzles the crowd and baffles the opposition. But it depends entirely on a certain mentality. The players have to be deeply skilled to switch positions easily, or be endlessly drilled in multi-tasking.

In other soccer cultures it’s all unthinkable. A player does his job as well as possible but an Italian defender is not going to spring forward into an attacker’s position and expect his striker, in return, to instantly shift to the back four.

The classic Dutch Total Football is played with a 4-3-3 system, allowing for ease of movement on the field, with flying wingers, in the style of Arjen Robben ceaselessly going forward, allowing the entire Dutch team to shift behind him. In recent years, Dutch managers tinkered with it, and relied on the traditional 4-4-2 formation. It didn’t work.

Current manager Marco van Basten, a former player, apparently listened to the complaints of his team, heard all their arguments about how to mesh individual skills and shifted to the unusual 4-2-3-1 formation we’re seeing here at Euro 2008. It means using two holding midfielders, usually Giovanni Van Bronckhorst and Demy De Zeeuw, while Wesley Sneijder acts as a sort of fulcrum in front of them, spreading the ball to two wingers and forward to lone upfront man Ruud van Nistelrooy.

As we’ve seen, this is a system of always-flowing, always-attacking fluidity, Sneijder moves forward and moves back. It’s about helping van Nistelrooy and he, meanwhile, lets others go forward in his place. It’s total football tweaked to match the skills of these particular players.

Yesterday’s game was remarkable on several counts, one being the lack of a goal for van Nistelrooy. He’s supposed to be the goal-getter, but that’s only on paper. In reality he’s often a utility man, supporting seven players who are free to go forward, shoot and possibly score

It’s simple, really: Dutch soccer is rooted in collectivism, flexibility and the creative use of limited space. So, too, are the principles of Dutch society. At the beginning a group of people in a small area had to reclaim land from the sea and build dikes to project themselves. Only if everybody was reliably in sync could any of this succeed. Later, it became necessary to put small space to maximum use and that required both creativity and an assured blend of individualism and collectivity. It’s all about collaboration and creativity. And use of space. That’s Dutch soccer. And Dutch architecture and design.

Books have been written about this. It’s odd how soccer can be the opening into a society, but it can be on several counts. As for now, what happened last night.

And the Oranje Army? That’s so Dutch, the massive crowd of 50,000 or 60,000 people joining together to support the team, no matter what. Travelling and flowing like a river of people. And all in orange. Some are orange cowboys. Some are orange Elvis figures. Some are little Dutch girls in pigtails. Some are Marilyn Monroes. But all in orange, always. That’s collectivism, individualism and ingenuity, right there. And entertainment, too.

A Dutch Treat

Beside it, waiting to travel elsewhere, a noisy mob gradually filled the platform. They were decked out entirely in orange, with goofy hats and honking horns and drinking as if beer were about to be made illegal.

Disbelief dominated on both sides, if they were being honest about it. Netherlands 3, Italy 0 in the opening match for both sides in a big tournament. The World Cup champions humbled by a side that hadn’t beaten them in 30 years.

The memory of all of those glamorous Dutch soccer teams who couldn’t quite get it done when it mattered dissolving in the evening air, along with the pretensions of the Azzurri faithful, who for a couple of years – who’s kidding who, forever – have felt that their best 11 defined the sport’s aesthetic heights.

It began at the Stade de Suisse, built on the location of the former Wankdorf Stadium, which was the site of two famous/infamous matches during the 1954 World Cup – Germany’s Miracle of Bern triumph over Hungary in the final, and Hungary’s bloody Battle of Bern win over Brazil in the quarter-finals.

The new place is just a sterile little 32,000-seat park, which by match time seemed three-quarters filled with Dutch supporters who follow their team far and wide and who obviously weren’t put off by predictions that theirs was an ordinary, uninspiring, dysfunctional side crippled by injury.

The match, to be fair, began a bit tentatively.

The Italians are always happy to ease into a soccer tournament, taking draws instead of wins if necessary, defending at all costs, getting through to the next round and then getting down to business. But Holland showed plenty of poise, controlling the ball in the midfield, with the towering Orlando Engelaar looking cool playing the centre of the wheel.

The tone changed dramatically in the 26th minute, when Ruud van Nistelrooy opened the scoring on a goal that appeared at first – and second – glance to be offside.

Standing just off the goal line, a couple of yards behind the last standing defender, he deflected a pass/shot from Wesley Sneijder into the Italian net, then immediately looked over at the referee’s assistant as if expecting to see the raised flag.

But what seemed black and white in the moment was made a bit grey by the fact that Italy’s Christian Panucci was lying, apparently injured, just beyond the touchline. If he had taken himself off the pitch on purpose to play van Nistelrooy offside, as was apparently the ruling, the goal should indeed have counted.

In any case, it did, and the Italian players and fans were incensed.

They couldn’t complain, though, when Sneijder made it 2-0.

Dirk Kuyt took a beautiful cross from Giovanni van Bronckhorst and headed it gently back to Sneijder, who volleyed past goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon in the 31st minute. It could well have been 3-0 at the half, when van Nistelrooy was sent in alone, and just may have been impeded trying to get to the ball before Buffon could deflect it away.

That score after 45 minutes meant the Italians would have to turn it on in the second half, to leave their comfort zone and revert to an all-out attack. They did, and, especially after Alessandro Del Piero came on as a substitute, at times forced the Dutch back on their heels.

Luca Toni, sent in alone, chipped one over the bar, and twice ‘keeper Edwin van der Sar was called on to make spectacular saves, the first on a shot by Fabio Grosso, the second on a direct free kick by Andrea Pirlo. Had it gone to 2-1 there, Holland would have been in tough to hold on.

But the rebound off Pirlo’s free kick was turned into a brilliant counterattack, which culminated with van Bronckhorst heading home the third goal for the Netherlands in the 79th minute and that was that – a little bit of soccer history made on a spot that has seen plenty of it.

Now the Dutch, suddenly brimming with confidence, are playing a kind of beautiful game that was supposed to be beyond this year’s squad.

Robin van Persie, who was ruled out by his coach because of injury, came on in the second half as a substitute, and looked both fine and dangerous. Arjen Robben remains hobbled at least through the first round, but on the evidence of last night, they don’t really need him.

Now the Italians understand that they can’t ease their way into the final eight, that they’ll need at least one win over France or Romania, and that without Fabio Cannavaro (ankle) at the back, the team that locked down everyone at World Cup 2006 looks not nearly so impregnable.

Not such good news for the folks riding the rails back to Rome last night, but great news for those just tuning in for a show.

Waitress loses job after shaving head for cancer charity

Stacey Fearnall said it was a ‘pretty easy thing’ to shave her head to raise money for cancer research, but was stunned when her boss fired her over it. (CBC)

 

Stacey Fearnall raised more than $2,700 for the charity Cops for Cancer, a local fundraiser for cancer research.

Then the 36-year-old waitress at Nathaniels restaurant was laid off when she showed up for work earlier this week with her newly shorn look.

Up until a week ago, Fearnall had long red locks, but she said she made the decision to have her head shaved because she has a friend battling cancer and she lost her father to the disease.

"I felt like this was a pretty easy thing for me to do to raise money to help people," she told CBC News on Thursday.

She said she told her bosses what she was planning to do, but when she arrived at work at the restaurant practically bald, she said they sent her home and told her she wasn’t welcome back.

"’We’ll call it a layoff.’ That’s what he said," Fearnall said her boss told her. "’Spend the summer with your kids.’ I call it losing my job."

Nathaniels owner and chef Dan Hilliard issued a statement late Thursday saying Fearnall did not advise him that she was planning to shave her head.

Her dismissal has already provoked an outcry from some in the community.

"You have to express yourself with your wallet," George Brechin said. "I won’t be eating there in the future."

‘It’s not hurting anybody’

Rowena Pinto, spokeswoman for the Canadian Cancer Society, told CBC News her organization has never heard of something like this happening before in relation to any of its fundraising events.

"We want to underline that it’s supporters like Stacey that enable us to carry out our mission," Pinto said.

Fearnall might have grounds to sue on the basis of gender discrimination, said Barbara Hall, chief commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission. Hall noted that bald men work at restaurants.

"If something were acceptable if done by a man but not by a woman, then there might be a basis for a complaint," she told CBC News.

Fearnall said she isn’t sure if she wants to sue, but she doesn’t think she did anything wrong.

"I think it’s for a good cause," she said. "It’s not hurting anybody and it doesn’t affect my ability to work."

She said she is working at a new part-time job where her boss loves her new look and has offered her extra shifts.

Betty of Burleigh Falls

Betty was a member of the three-century club, having lived in the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries.

During visits she would reminisce about life with a chuckle and a twinkle in her eye. Born Elizabeth Windsor, she was the third-youngest of 14 children. They lived in tourist country in a one-storey log house. The long kitchen had an equally long table to seat the large family.

Tourists would take the boat to Port Hope, Ont., then the train to Lakefield and a stagecoach or carriage to their cottage. Betty’s mother had an ample milk house kept cool in the summer with ice that had been collected in the winter. Eggs, cream, butter, cheese and pork from their mixed farm were stored here for delivery to the tourists. Her father was a guide on Stony Lake and would take tourists out in his rowboat to fish.

After Betty married Bill Crowe in 1919 they bought a farm nearby. They had two children, Morley and Marlene. Betty continued her parents’ tradition and sold goods to tourists.

Betty and Bill attended the nearby Zion United Church, where Betty arranged musical evenings with neighbouring choirs. The skits she performed would bring the house down.

Their new 1928 Chevy replaced their horse and buggy. Bill delivered mail for 36 years. Betty would often go along to take clothing and food to needy families.

Betty once said having a car changed her life. She started writing stories on accidents and weddings for the Peterborough Examiner, for which she was paid by the word. Always resourceful, she would notice the expiry date on people’s newspaper subscriptions and get the commission when the customer renewed.

After Bill died in 1972 Betty moved to Lakefield.

She hadn’t travelled farther than Kingston or Niagara but was always deeply interested in what was happening in the world. Although only 15 when the Titanic sank, she would always cut the anniversary article out of the paper.

She had a constant stream of visitors and would always serve them tea in a china cup. Young and old loved to talk to her.

At 91, Betty accomplished a lifelong dream of writing her own cookbook. Asked when she celebrated her 100th birthday about her proudest moment, she said it was when her cookbook was published.

No doubt her long life and good health can be attributed to eating food in moderation, drinking plenty of black tea, keeping a positive attitude, and the grace of God.

Betty leaves her two children, five grandchildren, 11 great-grandchildren and five great-great-grandchildren with many happy memories.

Gwen McMullen is Betty’s friend.

Biting snow, wind and bragging rights

AARON HARRIS/TORONTO STAR: Marek Botbol plows out his laneway off Atlantic Ave. in
Toronto, March 8, 2008. The storm might blow the city over its record for a season’s snowfall.

"It’s a huge event. … I can’t emphasize enough that it’s a mammoth storm," Environment Canada climatologist David Phillips said yesterday at the height of the Blizzard of ’08, a two-day lashing that included everything winter has to offer – gusting winds, below-freezing temperatures, sleet and snow, so much snow that scores of streets and area highways were reduced to single lanes of snow-clogged traffic for much of the day.

As we begin shovelling and plowing and digging our way out, Phillips said, the experience will become epic, especially as we’re on course to break the record for snowfall in a single winter.

"I think what will happen is people will start cheering for their record," Phillips predicted, "because, if there’s any comfort in a winter of misery, it’s in at least having something to talk about in the warm days, to brag to your grandchildren, `I remember the winter of 2007-08.’"

White-outs. One accident, on average, somewhere in the GTA every two minutes. Flooded streets in Hamilton after a water main broke. Hundreds of delayed flights at Pearson International Airport on one of the busiest days of the year as March Break travellers headed for the sun and surf of warmer climes.
But there’s a flipside to all that misery. The best tobogganing in years. Bragging rights, as we’re on the verge of smashing the 207.4 centimetre record snowfall for a Toronto winter, set in 1938-39. The simple joy of a hot chocolate after shovelling out the neighbour’s driveway. Cross-country skiing that won’t stop. A walk in the park.

"I love this day because it really puts you in touch with nature," said Anthony Garbuio as he hiked through High Park yesterday with his Labrador-terrier Leila. "You are out, feeling the majesty of nature."

And just in case you missed it yesterday, there’s more of the same in store for today – blowing and drifting snow and a 40 km/h wind that will make it feel like, oh, about —20C, and then a slight warming trend that will bring us to 5C by Thursday.

The weekend storm, spawned amid tornadoes in Florida earlier in the week, swept up the eastern seaboard packing freezing rain, ice and sleet ahead of the snow, creating white-outs in Arkansas and heavy rains in Georgia and South Carolina.

As it swept up the Ohio Valley the weather system dropped more than 50 centimetres of snow in some regions, closing airports, highways, even delaying trains.

We had our own problems with delayed trains here – the TTC cancelled its Scarborough LRT line between McCowan and Kennedy after snow began interfering with the electrically powered system.

Pearson remained open, although thousands of stranded passengers might argue otherwise, and most area roads remained passable, if accident-clogged.

Police spent Friday and yesterday pleading with motorists to stay off the roads, but there were enough of us with "must-make" trips to create traffic chaos.

Naomi Da Silva, 22, had her own "must-make" trip, coming in from Mississauga with friends to take in last night’s Leafs-Devils game at the Air Canada Centre.

The drive in took more than an hour – more than twice as long as usual, she said.

No serious accidents or injuries have been reported, although Ontario Provincial Police officers expressed concerns over two missing snowmobilers – one missing on Lake Simcoe, another missing on a lake near Orillia.

Police said they expect to record more than 1,000 accidents – most of them fender-benders – by the time they finished tallying the damage from the last two days.

On the highways, Ontario Provincial Police Sgt. Bruce Pritchard said, there’s a single colour – white.

"All I can tell you is I’m looking out the window now and I can’t see a thing," Pritchard said as he spoke from his office on Memorial Ave. in Orillia. "Normally I can see Highway 12 from here, only two miles away – and it’s all white."

The same colour scheme took over Toronto, where, by 4 p.m. yesterday, winds whipping through the downtown area sent horizontal waves of snow flying off the tops of buildings and onto the streets below.

Pedestrians tucked their heads deep inside the hoods of their jackets as they slipped and slid, bracing themselves against the force of the biting wind as they braved snowdrifts and the snowy salty slush thrown up by cars.

In the south building of the Toronto Convention Centre, sisters Renu Don-Liyanage, 33, and Dimple, 32, watched night descend on the snow-covered city through floor-to-ceiling windows.

What is their advice for winter? "I would say make sure you keep your fitness up," said the younger of the two, who apparently is in charge of shovelling at their Toronto home. "Snow is not just fluffy white stuff, it’s heavy."

Back out on King St. W. a quartet of out-of-towners scoffed at the suggestion this was all a hardship.

"People treat winter like it’s a trauma," said Kelly Wells, 34.

Wells, who moved to Saskatoon seven years ago, said her new hometown has had some six weeks of —20C temperatures. And that’s before the wind-chill is factored in.

Companion Aaron Beattie, 36, also from Saskatoon, took a winter veteran’s perspective when asked how to deal with the winter blahs.

"People have got to get out and do stuff," he said. "Otherwise it’s a really long season, especially in our case."

Visiting Montréal residents Agata Michalska and Ryan St. Cartier, both 28, also had some advice for effete Torontonians.

"Be prepared. Have proper snow tires," said Michalska, sipping apple cider at a Second Cup.

"You have to give yourself extra time if you are going someplace," said St. Cartier.

"You can’t be on someone’s case if they are going at their own pace," he said.

And speaking of pace, Toronto is well on the way to smashing that snowfall record set 69 years ago. With the most recent 25 centimetres of snow – to 8 p.m. – Environment Canada’s Phillips said, "we’re going to be close. It’ll just take a couple of flurries to do it." 

 

207.4: 1938-39 snowfall in centimetres

195.2: 2007-08 snowfall in centimetres, as of 8:30 p.m. last night

12.2: Centimetres of snow between us and the record

One big winter wallop

Environment Canada senior meteorologist Ria Alsen said it will finally leave Ontario and Quebec later Sunday morning, and the Maritimes this evening, but will it likely be Monday before it exits Newfoundland.

 

In terms of its size, duration, precipitation and winds, the storm is a monster.

The Ottawa and Niagara Falls areas have been hardest hit in Ontario with more than 45 centimetres of snow since Friday, pushing totals for the year to near record levels.

There have been scores of traffic accidents across the province, hundreds of flight delays and cancellations and even some power outages in Toronto.

Due to higher winds and blowing snow, the situation is even worse in Montreal and Quebec’s Eastern Townships where more than 40 centimetres of snow has fallen.

And it’s messier yet in the Maritimes where the snow has been mixed with freezing rain in many areas.

If there’s any consolation for those digging out Sunday it’s that they may go down in history as witnesses to one of the snowiest winters in recorded history, said Environment Canada senior climatologist David Phillips.

The storm dropped a foot of snow in Arkansas, created tornadoes in Florida, and heavy rains in the southeastern parts of the United States before beginning its expected day-and-a-half tear through Eastern Canada.

"It’s a huge event, we can’t diminish the point or can’t emphasize enough that it’s a mammoth storm," Mr. Phillips said.

"The other thing that’s quite impressive is it’s a 36-hour event, and this is not a typical kind of a weather event in Canada which typically can last 10 to 12 hours."

March is known to come in like a lion, and Ms. Alsen said it’s because a lot of cold Arctic air is running headlong into warm moist air from the southern United States, creating perfect storm conditions.

And winter-weary Canadians are not out of the woods yet. Ms. Alsen said there will likely be more snow later this month and into April.

Ms. Alsen added that with the heavy snow, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources is growing increasingly concerned about the possibility of flooding.

If temperatures were to rise quickly, Ms. Alsen said the runoff from melting snow could push rivers and streams to dangerously high levels.

On the warm side of the storm, parts of Nova Scotia could see 70 millimetres of rainfall. That has emergency measures officials monitoring some areas like Truro and Oxford for possible flooding, but admit it’s unlikely.

On Saturday, blowing snow blinded drivers and made roads treacherous across much of southern Quebec.

Provincial police blamed the conditions for a dramatic accident on Saturday afternoon involving as many as 20 vehicles near Lavaltrie, northeast of Montreal.

At least 10 people were injured in the highway smash-up, police spokesman Gregory Gomez said.

It may be difficult to grin and bear it now, but Mr. Phillips said Canadians will be able to think back to these dreary days with stories of how they survived one of the worst winters ever.

"I think what will happen is people will start cheering for their record," Mr. Phillips predicted.

"Because if there’s any comfort in a winter of misery it’s in at least having something to talk about in the warm days, to brag to your grandchildren that, ‘I remember the winter of 2007-2008.’ "

Weekend Weather Wreaks Havoc

And, the worst is yet to come, with the heaviest snowfall and strongest winds set to hit the city tonight.

There have been about 550 collisions in the past 24 hours, said OPP Const. Dave Woodford, who was showing a little frustration with drivers who won’t slow down and drive to conditions.

"Unacceptable. People just have to learn how to drive," he said.

"I know people are going to be out on the roads, but just give yourself a bit of time."

Woodford reminds drivers to charge cell phones and to make sure your car has a shovel and extra windshield washer fluid. He also says to keep the gas tank full, as the OPP have had a few cases today where cars stuck in slow-moving traffic simply run out of gas

The weather has caused a series of cancellations across the city, even though it isn’t a school day.

York University has cancelled day classes at the Keele and Glendon campuses, as well as the Keele Campus March Gala. Continuing Education classes at George Brown College are also cancelled. All classes and activities at Seneca College are cancelled. Afternoon classes, and admissions meetings, are cancelled at all Humber College campuses. Peel District School Board continuing education classes are also cancelled.

Ryerson University and the University of Toronto remain open.

The Toronto Zoo also closed at 11 a.m. Saturday, but plans to reopen as usual at 9 a.m. Sunday.

The city also activated its Extreme Cold Weather alert program, which opens extra beds for the homeless and provides supplies for outreach workers to drive around the city core, offering rides and food to those stuck out in the cold.

Environment Canada’s winter storm warning for Southern Ontario continues.

The storm headed for the region is moving through West Virginia this morning, and will hit Ontario later tonight. About 30 cm of snow is forecast for the Toronto area during the storm, which began last night and is expected to last about 36 hours. Blowing snow and winds gusting to 70 km/h are also forecast.

At Pearson Airport, major airlines have already reported cancellations and delays.

Trish Krale, a spokesperson for the Greater Toronto Airports Authority, said the situation could snowball throughout the day.

“There have been a few cancellations in anticipation of the storm,” Krale said.

“People should definitely call ahead. It could get worse through the day as the storm gets worse.”

Travellers are urged to go to www.gtta.com to check for updates.

Air Canada and WestJet are asking customers to check on the status of their flight before driving to the airport.

They are also reminding travellers that alternative flight arrangements can be made without penalty because of the weather.

Air Canada can be reached at 1-888-247-2262. WestJet customers should call 1-1-800-538-5696.

Cancellations and delays are expected to last throughout the weekend.

Travellers using GO Transit bus service in and around Toronto can expect 20 to 30 minute delays. TTC service is running normally.

The biggest snowstorm we’ve weathered so far this winter dropped 33 cm on Feb. 6 and 7. This weekend’s snowfall could also crack a seasonal record. The snowiest winter on record was 207 cm in 1938/39. This morning at Pearson airport there was 176.8 cm.

The Niagara region, Kingston and areas near Ottawa, will get somewhere between 30 and 50 cm of snow during the storm, which is expected to last 36 to 48 hours.

Meteorologist David Phillips believes the city is on track to break the record.

“If we get 30 cm we’ll break the record,” he said, “and we still have six weeks to go.

It’s not unusual to have snow in April. I would bet money we’ll break the record.”

Last year, Toronto experienced its second lowest snowfall on record, with just 60 cm.

“It really is a world of difference,” Phillips said. “The contrast from this year to last is quite the head shaker, even for myself. And it takes a lot to shock me.” The near-record levels continue to strain road crews across the GTA. "Everyone’s getting a little tired," said Peter Noehammer, director of Transportation Services in Toronto.

Noehammer’s department has spent $40 million of its $67 million annual budget in just two months this year. However, there’s also a $12 million winter reserve fund that city council can fall back on, he said.

The regions are also facing a province-wide shortage of road salt. Durham Region was forced to order an emergency shipment of salt, which won’t arrive until Sunday.

In the meantime, Durham will mix salt and sand if needed, said Susan Siopis, the region’s director of transportation.

"We will use straight salt on the more dangerous spots – hills bridges, things like that," she said, adding the additional salt shipment should get them through the winter.

Toronto also expects its reserves will last, Noehammer said.

City crews will work around the clock this weekend to keep roads clear, using 200 salters, 600 street plows and 300 sidewalk plows.

"It’s been a heavy winter. It’s been tiring,” Noehammer said.

“We’re hoping spring will eventually come.”

With files from Emily Mathieu