2013 Villain: The Weather
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2013 Villain: The Weather

Nominated for: ruining homes, belongings, holidays, and peace of mind.

Torontoist is ending the year by naming our Heroes and Villains: the very best and very worst people, places, things, and ideas that have had an influence on the city over the past 12 months. Cast your ballot until 2 p.m. on January 1. At 4 p.m. we will reveal your choices for Toronto’s Superhero and Supervillain of the year.

villain climate change brett lamb

“So how ’bout this weather we’re having?”

A typically casual question that carried much more baggage in 2013 than in any other year in recent memory—baggage created by flooding, heat waves, and an ice storm. Although Toronto has a history of some pretty legendary overreactions to precipitation, this year’s seasonal concerns were justified.

First off, there was the startlingly mild winter of early 2013 (which, we admit, was kind of nice at first) but eventually felt too mild to be quite right. This was followed by The Summer That Wasn’t, full of weird cold streaks sprinkled in between spells of humidity that one observer accurately compared to “the inside of a mouth.”

Then came July 8, when Toronto received a month’s worth of rain in just two hours. Highways were flooded, sports cars abandoned, transit faced nearly insurmountable delays, and, yes, there were snakes on that train filled with stranded GO Transit commuters. Power outages affected thousands of residences, businesses, and festivals during the storm, and countless others in the rolling blackouts that followed as Toronto Hydro tried to keep up with energy demands. A new provincial record was set: the storm was determined to be the costliest in Ontario history, with preliminary damage estimates topping $850 million (and that number doesn’t include the costs not covered by insurance).

When Environment Canada unveiled its list top 10 weather stories of the year—our flood came in second, right behind Calgary’s—there were still two weeks left in 2013. The danger of publishing such judgements before all the evidence is in came quickly: two days after that list came out Toronto was pounded by a massive ice storm. Trees were toppled, power lines downed, and more 300,000 hydro customers (about 800,000 people) found themselves in the dark. The TTC was beset with delays, diversions, and service outages that took days to clear. Cold and weary Torontonians, many of whom were without electricity over Christmas, stayed at community centres and police stations that had been pressed into service as warming centres. Toronto Hydro called the storm “catastrophic,” and crews worked around the clock to get the power back up and running. It took nine days for all affected residents to get their power back.

So we’re thinking that what we need in 2014 are politicians willing to fight for strong environmental policies and—oh, wait. Nevermind. We’re screwed.