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Incoming polar vortex to drive temperatures down in Calgary region

Click to play video: 'Incoming polar vortex to drive temperatures down in Calgary region'
Incoming polar vortex to drive temperatures down in Calgary region
Calgarians are bracing for a blast of frigid temperatures later this week as outreach groups prepare for an influx of demand. Adam MacVicar reports. – Jan 8, 2024

After a few days of seasonal temperatures, a polar vortex is bringing a chill to Calgary and the surrounding region.

“Our coldest days will be Thursday, Friday and Saturday with a -40 wind chill expected Friday and Saturday morning,” said Global Calgary chief meteorologist Tiffany Lizee.

“This deep freeze is all thanks to a low-pressure system that’s pulling arctic air down and into western Canada.

“You’ll want to be prepared and have some extra cold weather gear in the car and in the kiddos’ backpacks.”

Lizee noted colder-than-normal temperatures will also extend into much of the United States.

Click to play video: 'Cold snap coming to Alberta next week'
Cold snap coming to Alberta next week

Temperatures in Calgary are currently forecast to go below -30C on Thursday and Friday.

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Environment and Climate Change Canada has not yet issued an extreme cold weather warning for the Calgary area, but a snowfall warning was in effect on Monday for the Rocky Mountains and parts of the Trans Canada Highway in British Columbia.

The same system bringing the cold will also bring some snow to Alberta starting Monday evening.

“The bulk of the snow will track along the Yellowhead Highway on Tuesday before pushing southeast,” Lizee said. “Here in Calgary, flurries are possible overnight with lingering cloud through the day tomorrow.”

Lizee said Calgary could expect two to four centimetres of snow in the city into Wednesday morning before the bitter cold sets in.

The City of Calgary has a network of cold weather emergency locations around the city for people who need to get out of the cold and warm up.

Helping in from the cold

Patricia Jones, CEO of the Calgary Homeless Foundation (CHF), said “weather is deadly” for the unhoused people that the foundation and their partners try to serve.

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“This weather can kill someone and we want to ensure that we’re coordinated and have as many opportunities for people to access warm spaces as they can,” Jones told Global News.

The CHF works with police and bylaw officers, as well as shelters throughout the city, to try to help inform people sleeping rough that there are options available if they’d like to take advantage of those services.

“It’s important we’re out there as much as we can to have as many conversations as we can, because you never know what conversation or what level of trust can be developed quickly so somebody will trust us enough to access shelter and have conversations about the services so they can have a better life,” Jones said.

The Salvation Army also expects to be busy in the next week as the polar vortex swoops south.

Click to play video: 'Calgary braces for Arctic chill: Drastic temperature drop expected'
Calgary braces for Arctic chill: Drastic temperature drop expected

“Often what we see are a lot of folks who are ill-prepared for this type of deep freeze, in terms of warm layers and clothing, and just having safe, warm places to be,” outreach program coordinator Hooria Ansari said.

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“It’s always really hard to see someone who’s coming into the (warming) space or is outdoors in nothing but a hoodie or a light jacket and sneakers, and no other gear. So we do our best to meet those needs of warm winter gear.”

Jones said if Calgarians find their fellow citizens in distress during the cold weather, they can call the HELP team at 403-988-7388 or a call to 911.

“Their call will be warmly welcomed, no pun intended.”

Cold wheels

The cold weather can leave people without their cars, in one way or another.

On the same week an Arctic air mass is making its way into sub-Arctic areas, the Alberta RCMP and Alberta Association of Chiefs of Police are launching their annual Operation Cold Start campaign, to prevent the theft of vehicles which drivers leave unattended while running with keys in them.

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“The colder it is, the more we see of it. It is an opportunistic thing,” Staff Sgt. Luke Halverson said. “A vehicle that may not be targeted by a thief looking for a specific vehicle type may target the average citizen who’s left their car running while they went inside to make breakfast or pack up their kids.”

Halverson said it’s easy to understand the impulse to wait inside while a vehicle warms up in very cold temperatures.

Click to play video: 'Operation Cold Start'
Operation Cold Start

“But if you get your car stolen, it’s going to be not worth the effort saved by the hassle of reporting it, dealing with all the issues regarding insurance and if it’s damaged,” Halverson said. “Plus, we know that vehicles stolen are often used to commit other crimes such as thefts and robberies, and break-and-enters. So if you can protect your vehicle, you might be protecting someone else from becoming a victim of crime.”

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When the mercury drops, the Alberta Motor Association sees a spike in calls to its service centres.

“About a quarter of them are usually due to battery issues,” Mark Whitehead said.

He had some tips on how to help improve the conditions to start your vehicle and keep it running.

“Plugging in your vehicle is a really simple way to help reduce those incidences from happening. The oil in your engine is basically going to turn into tree sap, essentially, if you’re not plugging that block heater in,” Whitehead said. “Also getting yourself some winter tires — if you haven’t switched over already — that can prevent you from sliding off the road and then potentially needing us to come and pull you out of the ditch.”

The AMA also advises people keep extra warm clothing and blankets, water and snacks inside your vehicle in case you get stranded.

Embracing the cold

There are some people who enjoy the snow and cold temperatures, like Chad Blumes and his landscaping company Rebel Outdoor.

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For his snow removal service, Blumes sees green when the white stuff flies.

“This gives us an opportunity to sign up new customers, and obviously show our existing customers that we’re ready to go and happy to perform the service that they’ve signed up for,” Blumes said.

The forecasted extra cold temperatures aren’t giving him and his crew much pause.

“We’re prepared for it. We always dress for the conditions, and we expect that it’s going to get really cold,” Blumes said. “We embrace it.

Click to play video: 'Some Albertans pleased by return of more seasonal winter conditions'
Some Albertans pleased by return of more seasonal winter conditions

“I love the cold weather. I’m a hockey player. I love when the outdoor rink is going. Winter is a great time of year in Canada if you embrace it.”

Unsurprisingly, ski hills around Calgary are embracing the sub-zero weather after an abnormally warm winter to date.

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“These temperatures coming up later in the week are ideal snowmaking conditions for a lot of snow in a short period of time,” Dale Oviatt of Winsport said.

“We’re planning to stay open throughout the week, but it’s on a case-by-case basis. And we typically make that decision 24 hours in advance, knowing Calgary weather can change on a dime.

“Ideally, we want people to be able to come out, enjoy the winter no matter how cold it is. But safety is still number one.”

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