No matter what the groundhogs may say, winter’s not over yet.

Toronto and most of Ontario are in for a frigid bout of winter weather, according to Environment Canada.

The national weather agency issued an Extreme Cold Warning Thursday for a large swath of the country, including the GTA.

While the temperature in Toronto sat at around 1 C Thursday afternoon, it’s expected to plummet overnight.

“In the wake of a strong cold front, wind chills are expected to reach minus 30 tonight into Friday morning,” Environment Canada said. “After moderating during the day Friday, wind chills may reach minus 30 again Friday night into early Saturday morning.”

The agency advised people to cover up any exposed skin, in order to avoid frostbite, which can develop within minutes. It also warned that the risk from the extreme cold is greater for young children, older adults, those with chronic illnesses, those who are without proper shelter, and those working or exercising outdoors.

“We add in the winds and it could be minus 31 in terms of the wind chill and certainly that is dangerous and hypothermia and frostbite in a matter of minutes. So it's quite quite serious,” Environment Canada Senior Climatologist Dave Phillips told CP24.

He said the city will see a wild swing in temperatures over the next few days.

“It's about as close as we get to what we call an Eastern Chinook, because we're going to go from Saturday morning of minus 19 and 30 hours later, it's going to be what, plus three in Toronto. So it's going to arrive quickly and depart just as fast.”

Overnight temperatures are expected to reach -19 C and -21 C Thursday and Friday respectively, though the temperature will feel like the -30s with the wind chill.

A high of -13 C is expected during the day on Friday, warming up to a high of -4 C on Saturday and a high of 3 C on Sunday.



Ironically, the Extreme Cold Warning comes on Groundhog Day, when people across North America turn to a slightly less scientific method for forecasting the weather in the hopes of glimpsing an early spring.

Tradition holds that if the groundhog emerges and sees its shadow, it will go back into its den and winter will continue for six more weeks. But if it doesn’t spot its shadow, spring will arrive early.

Signals were decidedly mixed among Canada’s famous four-legged weather predictors Thursday. In Quebec, Fred la Marmotte was found dead just a day before he was set to do his duty. In a jam, the townspeople turned the job over to a young boy holding a stuffed groundhog toy. The boy conferred with his friends and called for six more weeks of winter.


Groundhog Day

Nova Scotia’s famous groundhog, Shubenacadie Sam, saw her shadow, portending six more weeks of winter.

Only Ontario’s Wiarton Willie turned out to be an optimist this year. The groundhog did not spot his shadow, heralding an early spring.

While the groundhogs hold a revered place in tradition, Phillips cautioned not to put too much stock in their predictions.

“This is about as silly as it gets. It is pure groundhog-wash,” Phillips joked.

Still, he said the enduring tradition speaks to Canadians’ obsession with weather.

“I mean, this is what we live for. We say ‘is it going to be a white or green Christmas? Is there going to be a January thaw? Is the groundhog going to see its shadow? Is March going to come in like a lion or like a lamb, April showers make for flowers,’” Phillips said.  

“It's not real science, but it gives us a hope that maybe what we've had, if we don't like it, will improve.”

In terms of actual science, he said “it’s about that halfway point -- there's more winter behind us than ahead of us. And so I think the days are getting longer, it sort of validates what we're sensing.”

He offered some advice to those looking to the groundhogs for a sure prediction, however.

“I wouldn't bet my pension on it.”

-With files from The Canadian Press