UPDATE: On Thursday morning, the extreme cold warning was dropped for parts of southern Alberta. On Friday, it was dropped for parts of western Alberta. For the most recent information on extreme cold warnings, click here.
There’s no other way to say it — it’s very, very, very cold outside. Blowing snow and frigid temperatures have descended upon the entire province of Alberta, and it isn’t getting better anytime soon.
In fact, at -28 C (or -39 with the wind chill), Edmonton was colder late Sunday morning than Iqaluit, located some 2,700 kilometres north in the Arctic, where Environment Canada said it was -22 C, or -33 with the wind chill.
As a multi-day stretch of frigid wind chills continues, Environment Canada expanded extreme cold warnings to all of Alberta as of 3:30 p.m. on Monday.
In Calgary, temperatures were expected to reach a high of -25 C on Monday, or -36 with the wind chill. Overnight, the low could reach -32 C and the wind chill feeling like -38 C, Environment Canada said, adding there was a risk of frostbite.
Monday was such a cold day, the Calgary Zoo cancelled the penguin walk for the day due to the extreme conditions.
In Lethbridge, Monday’s high was expected to reach -23 C with the wind chill making it feel more like -35.
Cold warning could be expanded
And as the Arctic airmass descends southward across Alberta this weekend, the national weather agency said the warning would continue to be expanded.
Wind chill values of minus 40 or colder will continue through the coming week and into next weekend.
Environment Canada meteorologist Danny Brown said on Sunday that the wind will be the bigger factor earlier in the week — and while that will taper off after a few days, it coincides with the temperature dropping even further.
“But as we get to Tuesday and Wednesday, the temperatures are going to get much colder but the winds won’t be as strong. I think Wednesday night will be the worst night.”
Brown explained the temperature in Edmonton’s core will be a few degrees warmer than neighbourhoods along Anthony Henday Drive and on the outskirts due to the insulation effect.
“There’s so many buildings and they’re emitting heat and there’s heat reflecting between the buildings, so it stays in the core of the city.”
In some cases, Brown said there can a difference of 10 degrees on very cold nights — however he said as the winds pick up, that discrepancy disappears.
” If you noticed last night, there was actually no difference at all because it was really windy and it just blows the urban heat island away.”
Global Edmonton meteorologist Jesse Beyer said an upper trough in the jet stream has allowed Arctic air to migrate south into the Canadian west.
“The trough will dig in and it looks like we’ll be engulfed by the polar front and remain in the cold for weeks.”
Some brief improvement may occur during the afternoon hours, but it will still be bitterly cold.
Daytime highs of -25 C to -27 C are expected for Sunday through to Thursday, according to weather specialist Mike Sobel. Wind chills will likely make that feel even colder.
Seasonal highs for this time of year are around -8 C, Sobel said.
The Edmonton International Airport said while some flights are arriving late and they are doing de-icing, that’s normal Canadian winter airport conditions and operations are normal.
Christopher Chodan with EIA said extra shifts are added during winter so the airport is prepared for the upcoming weather.
Impact on schools
On Monday, Elk Island Public Schools announced busing service for the school division east of Edmonton would be suspended for the entire day on Tuesday because of the extremely cold conditions.
The school board said all scheduled field trips would also be suspended but noted that all of its schools will remain open.
School but cancellations were also in effect for the following districts Friday:
Calgary Catholic School District said in a news release that all of its 116 schools, including ones in Airdrie, Chestermere and Cochrane, will remain open this week. The district added that schools in the Rocky View School Division were closed Wednesday, and its buses were not running.
Ski hill closures
Several ski hills in the Edmonton area have closed due to the temperature.
Snow Valley Ski Hill said it would be closed Sunday through Tuesday.
Sunridge said it was closed from Sunday through at least Wednesday, but that could be extended depending on how the weather is later this week.
The Edmonton Ski Club said it would be closed Sunday, Monday and Wednesday with regular programs and lessons rescheduled. The ski hill said it is anticipating closure of the hill up until Saturday, depending on the duration of the deep freeze.
Rabbit Hill was open Sunday, however, the ski hill said the chairlift wasn’t running due to the cold. The Rabbit Hill Bus was also not running, as per their cold weather policy.
Rabbit Hill said the entire hill would be closed Monday and Tuesday.
The Ice Castle in Hawrelak Park was also closed Sunday.
The Nakiska Ski area also sent an advisory to potential skiers and snowboarders on Sunday, saying the hill would be closed on both Monday and Tuesday because of the frigid temperatures.
Shelters for the homeless
Because of the extremely cold temperatures, the City of Edmonton has opened a portion of Commonwealth Recreation Centre to be used as an emergency overnight shelter.
Change rooms next to the Commonwealth Fieldhouse will have space for 36 people between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m., with additional space available in the fieldhouse if needed.
The city said the space will be made available as long as it is needed, and there will be three-days notice before it’s deactivated.
On Wednesday, Coun. Aaron Paquette tweeted that if someone needs to warm up but doesn’t have money to pay their Edmonton Transit fare, ETS will still allow them on and may even provide additional support.
Extreme cold warnings are issued when very cold temperatures or wind chill creates an elevated risk to health such as frostbite and hypothermia.
Symptoms of cold-weather-related problems include shortness of breath, chest pain, muscle pain and weakness, numbness and colour change in fingers and toes.
If you see someone in the cold who needs help, there are several phone numbers you can call:
- 311 — This will connect you with the City of Edmonton and should be used for any concerns about homelessness on public land citywide
- 211, press 3 — This will connect you with 24/7 crisis diversion and should be used when non-emergency support is needed for people in distress, such as with mental health issues, shelter and intoxication
- 780-860-6146 — This will connect you with the Boyle Street Community Services Street Outreach program and should be used when someone living rough outside is in need of assistance
- 911 — The emergency number should only be used in cases of someone in serious distress or in case of an emergency
Watch below: (From Jan. 15, 2020) Vinesh Pratap looks at how some Edmontonians are coping with extremely cold conditions.
And if it’s too cold for you to stay outside, it’s too cold for your pet to stay outside.
There is a silver lining to the miserable weather — if you have a sweet tooth, Sweet Convenience in west Edmonton is offering a cold-weather discount on all bulk candy. The colder it is, the larger the discount.