Is This the Coldest and Windiest Intersection in North America?

Ccyyrree, Wikimedia Commons // CC0
Ccyyrree, Wikimedia Commons // CC0 / Ccyyrree, Wikimedia Commons // CC0

The corner of Portage Avenue and Main Street in downtown Winnipeg, Manitoba has been called the "crossroads of Canada”—an apt descriptor for an intersection that’s right smack dab in the middle of the country. But it’s better known for also being the nexus of some seriously unpleasant weather features.

The crossroads has existed for over 150 years, which makes it older than Winnipeg itself, and began as an ox cart trail. It was purchased in 1862 by Henry McKenney, but was considered undesirable at the time because it was “low and swampy” and far from the Red River colony.

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

The location eventually became a bustling hub, was the site of a few local historic moments, and was long considered a gathering place for rallies and public expression. It became car-only in 1976, which might be for the best, as the corner of Portage and Main is also regarded as one of the harshest urban weather locales in all of Canada. Its reputation as both the coldest and windiest intersection has been solidified in public imagination and pop culture: the chorus of Randy Bachman and Neil Young's 1992 song "Prairie Town" features the repeating line, "Portage and Main, 50 below."

The veracity of the claim is impossible to prove once and for all (unless someone wants to start tracking temperature at every intersection on the continent), but downtown Winnipeg is reportedly slightly warmer than surrounding areas because of the urban heat island effect. Still, if you’re a visitor who’s worried about facing the extremes, you can traverse the area via an underground pedestrian walkway.

[h/t WTF With Marc Maron]