WATCH: Marianne Dimain explains what the city is doing to help people experiencing homeless during extreme cold weather alerts.
TORONTO – The City of Toronto is under an Extreme Cold Weather Alert with wind chill values expected to reach -30 degrees Celsius Wednesday afternoon and into this evening.
The advisory opens up additional warming centres and services for those who are most vulnerable.
The city’s medical officer of health issues the alerts when Environment Canada forecasts that overnight temperatures will reach -15 degrees Celsius or colder.
According to the national weather office, the overnight low is expected to reach -17 degrees Celsius Wednesday making it the coldest day of the week.
Parts of Southern Ontario, including Toronto, are already under an extreme cold warning issued by Environment Canada on Tuesday.
The advisory indicates a cold front is crossing the region with strong northerly winds which can be a health risk to vulnerable people.
The weather office says some are at greater risk than others for frost bite and hypothermia such as the homeless, outdoor workers, people living in homes that are poorly insulated, people with certain medical conditions, infants and seniors.
Those who are heading outdoors are being advised to wear appropriate clothing and dress in layers to keep warm.
The city-wide weather alert comes after a two men died over the past two days with one of them found at a TTC bus shelter near Yonge-Dundas Square Tuesday morning wearing only jeans and a t-shirt.
There was no extreme weather alert in effect at the time which would have resulted in warming centres across the city being opened for the homeless.
So why wasn’t an extreme cold weather alert called earlier? Dr. Howard Shapiro, the associate medical officer of health in Toronto, said the temperature didn’t meet the criteria necessary for the alert but they are willing to review procedures going forward.
“We had criteria that we established long before based on the best available information and although these are very tragic events, we don’t know the reasons for it. And so it’s really a weather-based system, it’s not an incident-based system,” he said. “So it’s something we will keep in mind, we’ll see what led to these events and what lessons we can learn from them but right now it’s too early to change anything.”
Mayor John Tory on Tuesday asked the city to open up two warming centres in light of the deaths and after homelessness activists descended on city hall demanding more shelter beds.
One such space that was opened overnight was Margaret’s Toronto East Drop-in centre located on Dundas Street East.
Organizers say 20 people walked through their doors during the evening hours.
“A lot of our participants know other people who are homeless. They’ve let them know Margaret’s is open,” said program manager Talena Jackson-Martineau. “So the word has gotten out. We’re very hopeful to get people off the streets and have a safe place to stay.”
Meanwhile, Greater Toronto Area police are warning motorists to pay attention to the roads and highways due to slick driving conditions.