After weeks of somewhat mild winter weather, Calgarians are bracing for temperatures to drop over the next few days thanks to a polar vortex.
Starting on Saturday, daily high temperatures are forecast to hover in the -20 C range for a few days.
Snow was also once again blanketing the city Friday, with roughly five to 10 cm expected to fall by Friday night, according to Global Calgary weather specialist Gemma Lynne Stroobant.
Stroobant said an additional five cm was expected to fall Saturday.
An extreme cold warning was issued for Rocky View County near Cochrane on Sunday morning.
The snowy weather was a factor in a number of collisions on Friday afternoon, with Calgary police shutting down a portion of Deerfoot Trail on McKnight Boulevard and Memorial Drive because of “multiple collisions.” Traffic was diverted in both directions on the highway, police said.
According to EMS, a multi-vehicle collision on northbound Deerfoot Trail between McKnight Boulevard and 32 Avenue, involving at least one car and at least one semi-truck, sent two people to hospital.
The coming cold snap forced WinSport to close their ski and snowboard hill on Sunday and Monday.
The hill should be open on Friday from 1 p.m. – 9 p.m. and Saturday 9 a.m.-5 p.m., but officials advised guests to keep an eye on winsport.ca for updates.
In addition, WinSport’s tube park will be closed Friday through Sunday, with plans to reopen on Feb. 12.
Calgary shelters brace for cold weather
The Calgary Drop-in centre said it is anticipating dozens of people to seek shelter as the cold snap arrives and temperatures dip into the -30s. The DI said it will have enough space and beds for anyone who needs one.
Director of Housing & Programs, Natalie Noble, said staff are preparing extra resources and will have more than 500 beds for those seeking warmth.
“We’ve reconfigured some space, added plexiglass, done some creative problem solving and we actually have space now to accommodate 516 people. Last night, we had 390, so ample space to meet the needs,” Noble said.
She said they have been preparing for cold temperatures and remain vigilant, balancing both the need for shelter and the additional safety precautions concerning COVID-19.
“I think the complicating factor for us has been layering on the COVID response. So for us preparation right now is just ensuring that we have enough beds in the building to meet the unique needs of the population while respecting the COVID protocols that are in place as well,” Noble said.
The site is reconfigured often, she added, and staff are “taking advantage of every nook and cranny in the building” to ensure they meet the distancing requirements.
“We just have to be quite vigilant, so we watch our numbers with fine detail every single day,” she said, tracking their numbers every day in terms of capacity and how many people are actually coming in on average.
Alpha House and the DOAP Team (Downtown Outreach Addictions Partnership) are also preparing extra resources to ensure anyone requiring a safe ride and warm bed will get one.
“We want to make sure that ultimately anybody who is outside has the opportunity to come into the shelter and whether we have the space or we collaborate with other shelters in the city to make sure that we can get that individual somewhere,” Communications and Fundraising Coordinator Shaundra Bruvall said.
“That’s the biggest priority, absolutely. So we know the job team is going to be busy. We know that the shelters are going to be busy, but we do have staff that are prepared to handle that.”
“We have added a van to the team, so we are 24/7 but we have added us additional staff just to make sure we’re able to respond quickly to calls,” Bruvall said.
“That’s a big priority — making sure that if we are receiving a call about somebody on the street, that we’re able to get to them in a really short period of time to make sure we can bring them in out from the cold,” she said.
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— With files from Christa Dao