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How cold can it really be? Preparing for an Ottawa winter

I’ve heard, as I’m sure everyone considering a move to Ottawa has, that winters are cold in the capital city. Really cold. And snowy. Really snowy.

Last week I spoke about my new job in Ottawa. I’m very excited to get started, but the never-ending warnings I’ve received from current and former Ottawans (that’s the proper demonym; I looked it up) about winter weather is starting to make me apprehensive about moving to the city. Basically it seems like they’re trying to tell me that Ottawa is the coldest place on earth and everyone is miserable in the winter. The exception to this is skating on the canal – everyone seems to love that experience.

I think I have an advantage to many other people moving to Ottawa, however. I went to school at Nipissing University in North Bay. That meant surviving four long North Bay winters. Surely Ottawa can’t be worst than that? Let’s take a look. I’ll highlight the coldest city in each month with blue, and the city with the most snow green (technically precipitation, but we can assume based on temperature it’s either snow, ice, or freezing rain).

Average Temp (C) Average Precipitation (mm)
Toronto -0.5 61.5
North Bay -8.2 77.8
Ottawa -5.6 69.5
Average Temp (C) Average Precipitation (mm)
Toronto -3.7 61.5
North Bay -12.5 68.9
Ottawa -10.2 62.9
Average Temp (C) Average Precipitation (mm)
Toronto -2.6 55.4
North Bay -10.4 57.1
Ottawa -7.8 49.7
Average Temp (C) Average Precipitation (mm)
Toronto 1.4 53.7
North Bay -4.5 64.6
Ottawa -2.2 57.5

Source: Environment Canada

Sorry, Ottawa, you’ll have to do better than that. Seems like my time in North Bay will serve me well in Ottawa, as North Bay’s winters are colder and snowier than Ottawa’s winters. They do have Toronto beat, however, so hopefully my last two years in the big city haven’t softened me up too much.

Specific coldness level aside, Ottawa is certainly not balmy. Luckily my cousin lives not too far from a free “park-and-ride” on the Transitway, so after a quick 5-minute drive, I can hop on a bus and be at the Hill 20 minutes later, minimizing my outdoor time. It also helps that I just picked up a new winter coat to keep me toasty warm.

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