The 1936 North American heat wave hit Toronto hard — temperatures reach 40 °C

·2 min read

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On Sunday, July 5, 1936, one of Canada's deadliest heat waves hit Manitoba and Ontario. It was part of the 1936 North American heat wave. It took place during the Great Depression and Dust Bowl.

City of Toronto Archives
City of Toronto Archives

City of Toronto Archives

In North America, the heat wave killed more than 5,000 people and destroyed a vast number of crops. The weather event set many record highs that held until the 2012 North American heat wave. The 1936 heat wave was also followed by one of the continent's coldest winters.

City of Toronto Archives
City of Toronto Archives

City of Toronto Archives

In late June, the temperatures started to exceed 38 °C across the United States. The Midwest was faced with some of their hottest temperatures on record. In the Northeast, the temperatures reached approximately 35 °C.

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In July, North Dakota reached a record 49 °C; still the hottest temperature in the state's history. Many other states set record highs during the month.

In Canada, Ontario and Manitoba reached 43 °C, tying previous heat records. By July 5, Ontario was in a drought. Areas from what is now the QEW corridor, from Hamilton to Niagara and Lake Erie was described as “parched waste,” in the Toronto Daily Star.

July 9, 1936 - The Toronto Daily Star
July 9, 1936 - The Toronto Daily Star

Courtesy of The Toronto Daily Star

By July 9, temperatures surpassed 40 °C. Areas in Toronto were referred to as “downtown slums” and “districts of torture.” Drivers were lined up on Fleet Street in hopes of getting some lake breeze.

City of Toronto Archives
City of Toronto Archives

City of Toronto Archives

By July 15, the temperatures finally made it out of the 40s and 30s and sat in the high 20s. By then, the heatwave killed more than 200 people in Toronto. The overall death toll in Canada was around 1,180.

To learn more about the 1936 heatwave, listen to today's episode of "This Day In Weather History."

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Thumbnail: Courtesy of City of Toronto Archives

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