It’s been 23 years since Toronto called in the military after a major snowstorm

It’s been more than two decades since a series of winter storms buried Toronto in three feet of snow, forcing then-mayor Mel Lastman to call in the military to help the city dig in.

The first storm arrived on January 2, 1999 and dropped nearly 38 centimeters of snow, causing chaos for commuters in the city’s downtown area.

On Jan. 4, Lastman had declared a “snow emergency” and banned parking on some snow-covered roads.

Over the next week it continued to snow, and another 21 centimeters fell on January 12.

Cumulative damage from the snowfall has crippled the city’s roads and public transit system.

With more snow expected in the forecast, Lastman requested assistance from the Federal Minister of Defense.

“I’m petrified by what could happen tomorrow,” Lastman said at a Jan. 13 news conference.

An immediate response unit based in Petawawa, Ontario, which included 540 soldiers and reservists and more than 100 vehicles, was sent to the city.

“Most places we go, people don’t want us there,” a Canadian soldier told CTV News Toronto at the time. “It’s a good thing to help your own Canadian people.”

The situation was a source of humor for newspapers across the country, with many poking fun at the city, a situation that did not sit well with Lastman.

“They can laugh, they can do whatever they want,” he said. “But come here and see what Toronto is going through.”

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With files from The Canadian Press and CTV News Toronto


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