McGill University student Mayumi Louguet falls on a patch of ice created by overnight freezing rain on the corner of McTavish and Sherbrooke Sts. in 2014.
Dario Ayala / Montreal Gazette files
Montrealers under the impression this year was a particularly treacherous one in which to tread the city’s streets and sidewalks were correct.Urgences-santé reported Friday the number of calls the ambulance service responded to for outdoor falls in the first eight weeks of the year jumped more than 55 per cent over the corresponding periods in the last three years.Urgences-santé received 710 calls between Jan. 1 and Feb. 20 requesting aid for falls that occurred outside. In the same period last year, there were 458 calls. In the year before that, there were 439 calls.The majority of calls were for broken, bruised or sprained wrists, forearms and hips, as well as head injuries.“Basically, it shows an increase of 55 per cent in comparison to the same period last year,” Urgences-santé operations adviser Eddy Afram said, calling the rise unprecedented. “The falls are in direct correlation with the observed winter weather conditions and ice storms we’ve had over the last few weeks since the beginning of the year.”Urgences-santé, which handles close to 40 per cent of all the calls made in the province of Quebec, said it had “one of our record-breaking days” on Jan. 25, receiving 1,200 calls for all types of medical emergencies. On Jan. 24, the temperature was 3 degrees Celsius and the city was drenched with 17 millimetres of rain. On Jan. 25, temperatures plunged to minus-25. Urgences-santé did not have figures for how many of those calls were related to falls.This year’s winter has been marked by a series of rapid rises and precipitous dips in temperatures as well as rainfalls and snowstorms, resulting in streets and sidewalks encrusted in a thick layer of ice that Montreal and its demerged municipalities and Laval have been powerless to remove in several sectors.Officials with Mayor Valérie Plante’s office said because the figures included both Montreal and Laval, the city preferred not to comment on them. On Thursday, Plante noted Montreal is not alone in suffering the vice of ice — many cities in the region have sidewalks and roads in poor conditions due to temperature swings.Analyses of this year’s weather conditions show Montreal has already had nine instances in which rainfall was followed by below-freezing temperatures, which is twice the average rate.Citizens can help overtaxed Urgences-santé paramedics by finding other alternatives to ambulances if the fall is not an emergency, by keeping walkways and stairways ice-free in case they have to visit, and by helping elderly people or those at risk in the community by clearing their firstname.lastname@example.org