Fun with -29 wind chill

23 01 2011

So today is the coldest day Toronto has had in quite some time: it’s -19C as I type this, with a wind chill of -29. Apparently, exposed skin can freeze in under 30 minutes when the wind chill gets that low. This is not weather to mess around with.

(Brief pause here to allow readers from the colder parts of Canada to enjoy a moment of smugness. Yes, I’m sure some of you think of -19 as a relatively balmy day compared to the bone-chilling temperatures you face on a daily basis. And, yes, we are effete urban wimps. Okay, carry on with what you were doing.)

I didn’t want to go out in this weather, but I had to: I had to buy groceries. The grocery store is only a couple of blocks away, but I decided to haul out the full array of winter artillery anyway:

  • A pair of pyjamas, serving double duty as longjohns, to wear under my pants;
  • Padded winter boots;
  • A sweater;
  • A toque;
  • My new winter coat, which looks like a dark blue space suit, but is extremely padded;
  • The hood for my new winter coat, which comes with an optional faux-fur lining, currently deployed;
  • A scarf, to cover as much of my face as possible (though if I cover my nose, my breath will fog up my glasses);
  • Heavy-duty gloves which are long enough to ensure that no skin between the hands and the arms is exposed;
  • If I’d had a ski mask, I would have worn that too, but I lost it years ago.

Suitably armed for winter, I headed out the door. The sky is brilliantly clear and blue today; clouds, smog and other things that usually blot the urban sky have all sensibly fled to warmer jurisdictions. The air is astonishingly clean. And I didn’t feel all that cold – my new winter coat is so warm that I almost felt comfortable. Until I realized that the bits of my face that were exposed were starting to feel a bit numb, and that my legs were starting to feel cold despite the two layers of clothing that were on them.

As I type this, I am back in my warm apartment. My apartment faces south, which means that it is almost always cozy in here. The building needs to be heated enough to keep the north side apartments – which face into the wind – above the municipally mandated minimum temperature. I reap the benefit of this.

Bonus points for toughness go to the man who was bicycling down the middle of Cambridge Avenue as I was returning from the grocery – this dude has more intestinal fortitude than I do. Me, I’m staying inside for the rest of the day, thank you.

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