‘Extremely, extremely cold’ in Edmonton after warmest December on record

Click to play video: 'Polar vortex plunges Prairies into deep freeze'
Polar vortex plunges Prairies into deep freeze
A polar vortex has descended over the Prairies, with some areas expected to see their lowest temperatures in decades. Heather Yourex-West looks at how people in Alberta and Manitoba are trying to stay warm, and the dangers for unhoused people – Jan 10, 2024

Coming off the warmest December on record, Edmontonians will be forgiven for being shocked by an extreme cold snap in mid-January.

An extreme cold warning was issued for the entire province of Alberta on Wednesday.

“We’ve had an Arctic ridge of high pressure push into the province over the last couple of days,” Alysa Pederson, a warning preparedness meteorologist for Alberta with Environment and Climate Change Canada said on Thursday.

“This morning was the coldest day we’ve seen this week and it’s the coldest day we’ve seen this winter so far.

“Edmonton city centre … at 11 a.m., was -34.8 C, so that’s definitely the coldest temperature we’ve seen in a long time.”

The last time Edmonton reached -34 C was in 2020, she said. And the last time temperatures plummeted below -40 C was in 1972.

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“The cold has come in but it’s not as bad as it’s going to get,” Pederson warned. “Our coldest morning is expected Saturday morning, but it’s similar to Friday morning. Once that cold air comes in, it’s really going to intensify.

“Our lows in the city are expected to be around -38 and -39 (Friday) morning and Saturday morning.”

Outside the city limits, she said, the temperatures look more like -45.

“Extremely, extremely cold temperatures,” Pederson said.

Click to play video: 'Edmonton weather forecast: Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2024'
Edmonton weather forecast: Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2024

It’s especially shocking coming after a fairly mild and snow-free winter up until now.

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“December ended up coming in for Edmonton as the warmest December on record,” Pederson said. “Most of our days — I think there were only two days that were below zero in December.

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“So coming from that into this might make this extreme cold feel a little bit colder than we would maybe usually be used to by mid-January.”

Pederson stresses safety: reduce time outside as much as possible; cover all exposed skin, have goggles, scarf and mitts; and bring an emergency kit in your vehicle with a blanket and extra clothes.

“That’s why the extreme cold warnings go out with windchills of -40 or less. It’s because it can actually do damage. You can get frostbite within minutes in temperatures like this.

“Parts of the province are going to see daytime highs in and around -40 over the next couple days,” Pederson said. “When we start talking about temperatures like that, absolutely it’s some of the coldest places on Earth at this time. The only other place that might rival this is parts of northern Russia that are in latitudes further north than we are now.”

The forecast indicates the coldest time will be Saturday morning. It shows a slight improvement in the temperature early next week, but Environment Canada said below-normal temperatures are likely to continue.

Click to play video: 'AMA tips to navigate icy roads'
AMA tips to navigate icy roads

Chi Bihis has been working as a billboard poster for five years. He said the job continues no matter what the weather is — unless it’s torrential rain.

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Thursday was pretty cold to be working outside.

“I’m alright,” he said. “It’s just my fingertips.

“It’s all a mindset, mental thing,” Bihis said.

“When you come out here and actually work and layer up, it’s not so bad.”

Bihis has learned some tips and tricks to keep warm while outside.

“A good pair of long johns, marina wool stuff and good layers, Sherpa-lined stuff, and an outer shell to keep it all in.”

Click to play video: 'AMA tips to navigate icy roads'
AMA tips to navigate icy roads

The Edmonton International Airport said Thursday it was experiencing some flight impacts due to the extreme cold weather.

Travellers are encouraged to check their flight status before heading to the airport.

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Also, the departures roadway is closed due to construction, which means travellers have a three-to-five-minute walk outside between the temporary drop-off area and the terminal. Alternatively, they can wait in the heated shelter for the shuttle.

The airport is offering complimentary coat check all winter.

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