Toronto declares extreme cold weather alert as city goes into deep freeze
The city issued an extreme cold weather alert Friday morning as Toronto woke up to bone-chilling temperatures as low as -12 C, feeling more like -20 C, factoring in the wind chill.
With the mercury plunged into the negative double-digits, Toronto's medical officer of health issued the alert, triggering the opening of four emergency warming centres. This measure is taken any time temperatures are forecasted to reach -15 C or colder, or when wind chills are forecasted to drop to or below -20 C.
The warming centres, strategically spread out across the city, will open their doors by 7 p.m., giving vulnerable residents a means to escape the frigid cold and offering snacks, washrooms and referrals to emergency shelters when necessary.
Each of the four warming centres will offer around 150 spaces for people seeking shelter from extreme cold conditions, and hundreds of additional spaces have been made available through Toronto's Winter Services Plan.
The Omicron threat is being taken very seriously at these warming centres. Those seeking shelter are subject to mandatory physical distancing, mask-wearing and hand-washing, while staff will be conducting symptom screening and monitoring, among other measures.
The four warming centres will be open at:
Cold weather poses the highest risks primarily to people experiencing homelessness, people with pre-existing illnesses, the elderly and young children.
Not all vulnerable residents feel comfortable attending these emergency warming centres, and the city's Streets to Homes Program will be out on Toronto streets during the cold snap to try and encourage people living on the street to come indoors. They will also be handing out blankets, sleeping bags and warm winter clothing to make these harsh conditions just a bit more survivable.
The extreme cold weather alert will remain in effect until further notice.
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