Edmonton activates extreme cold response as Arctic chill descends upon Alberta

Click to play video: 'Edmonton weather forecast: Monday, January 8, 2024'
Edmonton weather forecast: Monday, January 8, 2024
Here's Phil Darlington's Monday, January 8, 2024 evening weather forecast for Edmonton, Alberta and the surrounding area. – Jan 8, 2024

As frigid conditions sweep across Alberta, the City of Edmonton has activated its extreme weather response to help keep vulnerable Edmontonians safe.

The response is triggered when the wind chill makes temperatures feel like -20 C for at least three consecutive nights.

Global News meteorologist Tiffany Lizee said the the coldest days will be Thursday, Friday and Saturday, when much of Alberta is expected to experience a -40 wind chill overnight.

“This deep freeze is all thanks to a low-pressure system that’s pulling arctic air down and into Western Canada,” Lizee said of the polar vortex.

A polar vortex is a mass of freezing air that exists all year long and typically spins clockwise over the North Pole. When it weakens, the circulation can be disrupted and split — sending a section south to spread frigid temperatures over parts of North America.

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During the upcoming deep freeze, open city facilities such as recreation centres and libraries will be available during regular hours of operation for anyone to get out of the extreme cold and warm up.

LRT system and stations are not part of the extreme weather response this year, this city said.

The city said transit spaces were acknowledged in the 2019 City Policy C620 (supporting vulnerable people during extreme weather) to not be a suitable substitute for proper shelter space, as they lack basic amenities such as washrooms, are often inadequately heated, and did not allow those using the space to safely connect with important social supports.

Click to play video: '‘This is all we got’: Edmonton encampment residents facing eviction as temperature drops'
‘This is all we got’: Edmonton encampment residents facing eviction as temperature drops

The city is instead encouraging homeless people to go to shelters to get out of the cold because they provide protection from frostbite, injury and potential loss of life due to fire risk in encampments.

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The response took effect on Monday at noon and is targeted to end on Thursday, Jan. 18, at noon, based on current forecasts.

The city said if the weather remain cold beyond that, the response will be extended.

The extreme weather response activation includes the following components:

Extreme Weather Bus Routes

  • A third bus will be added, during extreme weather activations only, to the overnight Winter Shelter Shuttle Service currently operating from November 1, 2023, to March 31, 2024, so that there is more capacity for transporting people to available emergency shelters.
  • Support staff will be available on each bus to help passengers access available emergency shelters and referrals to other services. The routes run from 11 p.m. to 5:30 a.m.
  • North route starting from Northgate Transit Centre to downtown.
  • South route starting from Southgate Transit Centre to downtown.
  • West route starting from Stadium Transit Centre to downtown.
  • The buses will stop for anyone at any bus stop along the routes.
  • Maps of the bus routes are available at

Expanded Overnight Shelter

  • Fifty temporary shelter spaces will open Monday night at the city-funded Al Rashid Mosque in north Edmonton from 5 p.m. to 9 a.m., supplementing the existing shelter capacity funded by the Government of Alberta.
  • The Winter Shelter Shuttle Service north route will include transit to the Al Rashid Mosque starting Monday, January 8 at 11 p.m.

Day Services 

  • Bissell Centre will operate its Community Spaces:
    • Seven days per week
    • Monday to Saturday, 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
    • The Community Space functions as a service hub, where participants can access supports, including: basic services (laundry, showers, food), housing, Indigenous cultural, mental health, and employment supports.
  • Boyle Street Community Services will increase capacity at the following winter warming hubs, which allow participants to access warm spaces during the day:
    • CO*LAB (9641 102A Ave N.W.), Sunday to Thursday, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
    • Faith’s Anglican Church (11725 93 St N.W.), Thursday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Friday 1 p.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
    • Luke’s Anglican Church (8424 95 Ave N.W.), Monday and Wednesday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
    • All Saints Anglican Cathedral (10035 103 St N.W.), Tuesday 9:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m., Thursday 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
    • St Mary’s Anglican Church (11203 68 St N.W.), Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
    • Good Shepherd Anglican Church (15495 Castle Downs Road N.W.), Monday and Tuesday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
    • C5 NE Hub (14017 Victoria Trail), Sunday 4 p.m. – 8 p.m., Monday to Wed 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
    • Stony Plain Road (15308 Stony Plain Road), Monday to Sunday 1 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Other sector initiatives

  • The city supports the Mobile Support Services Bus operated by Boyle Street Community Services all winter until April 30, 2024, which provides food, winter clothing, blankets and transportation to warming centres and shelter, and connection to other support services.
  • Both the risk of injury due to fire and the risk of severe frostbite increase significantly during extreme cold weather. The city’s encampment response will prioritize the health and safety of all community members and consider the impacts of the extreme cold conditions. Encampment closures will only be conducted when deemed high risk, based on the encampment risk assessment.

Sector Emergency Response

The activation is part of the Sector Emergency Response, a collaboration between the city, Homeward Trust and more than 25 system and partner agencies working together to keep vulnerable residents safe and warm every night.

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The winter response runs every year from Nov. 1 to April 30 during winter conditions. The city said it determines with its partners when it’s appropriate to activate the extreme weather response considering weather conditions and existing homeless shelter capacity.

What People Can Do

  • Learn to recognize the signs of hypothermia: uncontrollable shivering, drowsiness or exhaustion, confusion, fumbling hands, memory loss, or slurred speech; a person with severe hypothermia may be unconscious and may not seem to have a pulse or to be breathing.
  • Call 911 for someone in serious distress or in cases of emergency.
  • Call 211, press 3 for 24/7 Crisis Diversion non-emergency support for shelter, intoxication and mental health.
  • Agencies serving people experiencing homelessness are accepting monetary donations, as well as donations of warm clothing and winter gear. Please visit Homeward Trust Donate page for more information.

For more information on available resources during winter and extreme cold weather, visit Homeward Trust Edmonton’s Sector Emergency Response site.

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