Blizzard of the century causes de-icing problems at Toronto airport

12Feb12

When snow started falling in Toronto and its suburbs in the morning of January 2, 1999, no one bothered to take notice. Snow — plenty of it — is a staple of Canadian winters, so everyone is used to it.

But not everyone is used to having more than 40 cm. (16 inches) of the white stuff dumped on the entire Southern Ontario region, from Windsor in the west to Kingston in the east. All in one day.

Click here for a PDF of this graphic.

And nature was just getting started — four more snow storms followed in the next 10 days, making this the snowiest January since 1846. Environment Canada reported a total snow fall of 118.4 cm. (47 inches) for the duration of the blizzard, with 65 cm (26 inches) of snow on the ground at any one time.

Clearing the snow cost Toronto $70 million, more than double its usual budget for the entire year. The city also lost nearly $2 million in parking ticket revenue for the duration of the series of storms.

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INTERACTIVE: TURNING BACK THE ASIAN CARP

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Thousands of air passengers, most of them bound for warmer climes, also became casualties as they tried to get out of the city during the last few days of the blizzard. Toronto’s Pearson International Airport had to shut down a busy but snow-covered runway so snow could be cleared. That left just one runway to carry the bulk of air traffic. An aircraft had to be de-iced at a central  facility to remove ice buildup around its body. But because of the longer trip it had to take to the working runway after de-cing – amidst very cold, windy and snowy conditions – many aircraft that were  ready for takeoff had so much ice buildup they had to be de-iced again.

Graphic by Alfred Elicierto. Published in the Toronto Star on Jan. 12, 1999.

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Also in this blog:

How the Penumbra system works
The world’s richest oil deposit
The Haiti earthquake
Treating gunshot wounds
What animals mean when they ‘talk’

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