The winter of 2005/06 is one for the record books-- earning the distinction of being the warmest in Canada since 1948. According to Environment Canada, temperatures across Canada from December through February were 3.9C above normal, and almost a full degree above the previous record back in 1987. "We didn't just break the winter record, we smashed it to pieces," said Environment Canada senior climatologist David Phillips. "Even those of us who are paid to study this stuff were surprised." In fact, the entire year from February to February was the warmest 12-month period in Canada's history. Closer to home, Toronto and surrounding area experienced the seventh warmest winter in its history, about 2.5C above the average for the last 30 years.
The balmy weather translated into some real cost savings on heating bills for area residents. Mark Chalmers of Chalmer's Fuels Inc. in Georgetown, which services residents in Halton Hills, Milton, Mississauga and Caledon East, said, compared to last year, oil consumption was down by about 15 per cent. "Overall its 10 per cent warmer in degree days from September 1 to today," said Chalmers. The warmer than usual weather also meant some savings for the Town of Halton Hills on its winter control budget. Ted Drewlo, the Town's Manager of Public Works, said as of March 10, the Town had spent $458,700, or 47 per cent, of its 2006 $973,600 winter control budget. He said normally by this time of year the Town would have spent 56 per cent of the budget. Savings were realized because not as much money was spent on snowplowing, however, Drewlo said salting costs were up because of the freezing rain that fell this year. Also, the savings weren't as high as they could have been because there were significant snowfalls before Christmas causing the 2005 winter control budget, which was set at $953,800, to actually come in at $1,174,500. Although they noticed some decline in their sales, local retailers of winter items really didn't take much of a hit because of
the balmy weather. Mark Poullos of Outdoor Power Equipment said snowmobile sales were slow, especially in January, but snow blower sales were actually above normal. Ollie Tuchel of Ollie's Cycle and Ski said ski and snowboard sales have been down a little this year, but because of the strong December sales "everything balanced out." Climatologist Phillips predicts we will pay a price for the warm winter with an increase in viruses and insects once summer arrives. "Winter usually gives us a clean slate- if we have to suffer through the winter so do the bugs and viruses," he said. "If these bugs managed not only to survive the winter but thrive, we could see a huge increase this summer.