Cold weather alert catches those who help the homeless by surprise, street nurse warns – CBC.ca

Cold weather alert catches those who help the homeless by surprise, street nurse warns - CBC.ca
Extreme cold weather alert issued for Toronto, -17 C wind chill expected
It might not be technically winter yet, but the city is still issuing an extreme cold weather alert amid a frigid blast in Toronto, and a street nurse is warning the unseasonably cold temperatures have caught those who serve the homeless off guard.

Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto's medical officer of health, said in a statement on Tuesday that the alert will be in effect until further notice.

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The city says it issues cold weather alerts when Environment and Climate Change Canada is calling for temperatures of –15 C or colder, or wind chill values of –20 or colder. 

City of Toronto issues first extreme cold weather alert of the season

Environment Canada's current forecast is calling for slightly warmer temperatures than that, but not by much. Tuesday night's low is expected to be –12 C, with wind chill values making it feel more like –17 C overnight.

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Wednesday's forecast is calling for a high of –4 C, and wind chill values of –15 in the morning rising to –6 in the afternoon.

Toronto issued an extreme cold weather alert on Tuesday as temperatures were expected to plummet overnight.

Roxie Danielson, a street nurse, said the cold has caught people by surprise and the shelters and respite centres in Toronto are full.

"Having nowhere to go in this weather, people can freeze and die on the streets," she said.

Extreme cold weather alerts allow for the activation of services that focus on getting vulnerable residents inside. 

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A warming centre is open at Metro Hall by 7 p.m. the day an alert is called, and remains open continuously until noon on the day an alert is cancelled.

The city’s medical officer of health says the alert will remain in effect until further notice.

Danielson said there is a need for the Metro Hall warming centre to expand. If it could add cots and serve hot meals, that would be welcome, she said.

In the statement, Toronto Public Health asks residents to help vulnerable people by calling 311 if there is need for street outreach assistance. They are also warning members of the public to take precautions and wear appropriate clothing while outdoors.

Other services include overnight street outreach and transit tokens made available in some drop-in centres.

Toronto residents should expect flurries until late Tuesday evening, according to Environment Canada, with northwesterly winds gusting at about 20 to 40 kilometres an hour. The temperature is expected to feel like -17 C with the windchill.

The city is asking residents to help vulnerable people by calling 311 if street outreach assistance is needed, or to call 911 in an emergency.

Other services include notification to community agencies to relax any service restrictions, availability of transit tokens in some drop-ins, and additional overnight street outreach, officials said in a statement.

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An extreme cold weather alert is issued when Environment Canada predicts temperatures of -15 C or cooler for Toronto, and activates a number of services for the citys vulnerable residents.

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Officials said that a warming centre will open at Metro Hall by 7 p.m. the day an alert is called and will remain open until noon the day the alert ends.

Toronto‘s chief medical officer has issued the first extreme cold weather alert of the season for the city ahead of a drop in temperature Tuesday night.

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“A strong arctic ridge of high pressure will help to shatter temperature records in Toronto by Wednesday morning,” Global News meteorologist Ross Hull said.

“Im expecting temperatures to plummet to -14 C possibly even -15 C by early Wednesday in Toronto and that would break the previous record at Pearson for Nov. 13 of -9.6 C in 1986. Thankfully the winds wont be too strong Wednesday morning but the wind chill will still be between -16 C and -19 C for the morning commute.”

On Wednesday morning it will feel like it is -15 C. Temperatures are expected to get a bit warmer, with a high of -6 C in the afternoon.

As part of the alert, the city will be opening a warming centre at Metro Hall, expanding street outreach and making more transit tokens available at shelters.

The city is also advising residents to limit outdoor time as much as possible, adding people experiencing homelessness, children, elderly people, and those with pre-existing health conditions are most at risk of cold-related illnesses.

The alert comes after the city saw its first snowstorm of the season Monday, with 13 cm being recorded at Pearson Airport.

A record low temperature for Nov. 12 was also recorded Tuesday morning, with conditions dropping to -8 C.

Residents are advised to call 311 or visit this website for additional information on respite centres and shelters.

Final snow tally at #yyz looks to be 13 cm and a record low this morning with a temp. dropping to -8c. If you showed me those numbers my first guess would certainly not have been that they happened in November! #onstorm