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Okanagan deep freeze could lead to frostbite for outdoor enthusiasts

It’s cold outside
WATCH: It's cold outside

Most of B.C., including the Okanagan, is in the midst of an arctic deep freeze.

While temperatures aren’t record-breaking here in the valley, if you add in the windchill you’ve got the perfect recipe for frozen skin and frostbite.

“We’ve got this big surge of arctic air in the upper atmosphere, it’s part of an upper trough that’s driving in the frigid conditions,” said Global Okanagan meteorologist Peter Quinlan.

READ MORE: Okanagan service providers scramble to shelter homeless as temps plummet to – 30 C

And that cold front that’s descended the valley from up north is setting in on the Okanagan. But just how low will it go in terms of temperature?

“It looks like the coldest night will be Tuesday night into early Wednesday night; [temperatures] into the mid-minus 20s,” Quinlan said. “Windchills could get into the mid-minus 30s at times.”
Extreme cold, snow storm pummels the Okanagan
Extreme cold, snow storm pummels the Okanagan

The extreme temperatures along with windy weather represent the perfect conditions for frostbite

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Jeff Eppler is an ER doctor at Kelowna General Hospital where he says he’s seen his fair share of frostbite cases amongst outdoor enthusiasts.

“Once you drop below minus 10 — say you get minus 20 or you throw in some wind — then definitely the risk of frostbite greatly increases,” Eppler said.

Kelowna Weather Forecast: January 10
Kelowna Weather Forecast: January 10

Eppler’s advice for not ending up in the emergency room with damaged skin tissue due to double-digit minus temperatures ?

“You want to make sure that you’ve got layers, you want to make sure that you don’t have tight fitting boots, you want to make sure you have something like a buff or a face mask for when those winds pick up, if you are on a chairlift or if you are in the backcountry on a sled or backcountry skiing,” Eppler said.

READ MORE: Bitterly cold air in the Okanagan to last all week: Environment Canada

Because according to Eppler, it’s the wind that will get you.

“The cold by itself is harmful, but air is a good insulator. But if you throw in wind, it carries away the heat from the skin,” Eppler warned.

“That’s when you begin to see the freezing and the frostbite and the damage to the skin tissue.”

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Protect pets from the cold
Protect pets from the cold

There is some good news in the wind for those who dread the deep freeze, or worse yet, may have to work outside in this wicked winter weather.

“The arctic air is only going to settle into the Okanagan for a few days,” Quinlan said.

But until then bundle up, avoid exposing open skin, and always remember: when it comes to temperature, it’s all relative.

“People in the Okanagan aren’t used to this kind of cold, but there are other areas where the windchills this week could reach the minus 50s, so it could always be worse,” Quinlan said.

Outdoors in -30 is doable, but make sure you bundle up properly
Outdoors in -30 is doable, but make sure you bundle up properly