“Is that a tree on the President’s House?” I ask Le Husband as we’re driving down a Rosedale street in Toronto. “Isn’t that the University of Toronto’s President’s House?”
Mark stops. “Oh, oh.”
A huge branch, at least a foot and a half in diameter, has slammed down onto the roof. Things like this have been happening all day in this unheard of Toronto ice storm. Trees down, roads barred by yellow tape, bushes coated in glassy glossy ice – like a scene out of frozen Narnia.
Obviously the Christmas angels misheard us. When we asked for a nice Christmas, they thought we said ice Christmas. So here we are, a city under glass.
Rosedale hit hard by the Toronto ice storm
The neighbourhood of Rosedale, if you don’t know Toronto, is home to the ritziest most palatial manors in town. We came here because, in honour of our ice-coated city, I wanted to go skating, and Rosedale has the nicest outdoor skating rink of all.
Mark parks the car and gets out to look at the fallen tree. Sensing that he’s not going to get back in the car anytime soon, I get my skates out of the trunk of the car and walk towards the skating rink.
Crack! Ice skitters down the side of a steep roof. A massive branch crashes to the ground in front of me. Yikes. This isn’t the Rosedale I know. Rosedale is a lovely place to stroll around in. Lots of leafy green trees, happy millionaires and architectural stunners. Today, it’s as if we’ve been tossed into an Evil-Warlocks-throw-tree-branches-at-hapless-citizens video game.
Trudging ahead to the rink, trying simultaneously to look down at the slippery ground and up in the air in search of dangling power lines and threatening trees, I eventually make it to the rink. Wouldn’t that be the ultimate irony if the rink was closed due to … ice?
But no, the rink is open, though I’m the only person foolish enough to seek ice out on a day when we should all be huddled inside.
Toronto ice storm denial
As I’m sailing over the rink (okay, not really sailing, more like doing my regular penguin flapping from side to side – that’s the kind of skater I am), I have no idea of the extent of the ice storm, that 250,000 people in Toronto are out of power. That streetcars have stopped running. That two hospitals are running on generators, and that power in the city may not be restored for 72 hours.
I’m in that oblivious forgot-to-watch-the-morning-news state and all I’m worried about is that the rink will be closed, or that I’ll fall down because my boots are slippery or that I’ll get beaned on the head by a branch. (Which, when you think of it, isn’t that trivial of a worry, not in this insane Toronto ice storm to beat all Toronto ice storms.)
Suddenly I hear a soft tinkling of ice crystals. The scrape of falling ice. Bang! Shriek! A tree-sized branch slams down onto the ground at the edge of the park. Two boys go running. A puff of snow mist rises up from the ground. It’s like an action scene in a movie, but all too real. “Are you okay?” I shout.
“Yeah,” they say.
“That was really close!” I’m more panicky than they are. I’ve never seen anything like this. The ice-coated tree branches are so heavy they’re plummeting down like clay pigeons. And it’s disconcerting, this deceptive Toronto ice storm, so pristine and white and frozen, like one of those beautiful Bond girls who goes around killing people.
“It’s the 6th branch I’ve seen fall,” the rink manager tells me, leaning on his shovel. “One nearly hit my car.”
Mark finally shows up, too late to skate, and we crunch back to the car. The U of T grounds staff is up on the roof of the President’s House when we drive by, dealing with the tree – no Sunday day off in a Toronto ice storm.
So here’s what I hope. I hope no one gets hurt by a falling tree branch during this crazy Toronto ice storm. I hope the President’s House is okay and that everyone’s house is okay and that we all have power for Christmas, whether you celebrate it or not.