A prolonged cold snap that has brought record-breaking low temperatures to Alberta is expected to persist into the weekend before finally coming to an end on Sunday.
Calgary has been under an extreme cold warning since Monday, with temperatures hovering in the mid to low -20s. Environment Canada issues cold warnings when cold temperatures or wind chill creates an elevated risk to health, such as frostbite and hypothermia.
On Friday, Calgarians can expect a high of just -20 C, followed by continued cold weather until Sunday when a high of -15 C is forecast.
Come holiday Monday, temperatures will continue to climb with a high of -7 C and a mainly sunny sky.
Weather specialist Jodi Hughes says the cold weather is due to an inflow of Arctic air.
“Normally, there is a very strong area of low pressure situated over the North Pole. Occasionally, we will see the perfect setup that will allow blocking patterns that can re-direct that colder air south,” she explained. “It is similar to putting an object into a fast-moving river; the water — or in this case, cold air — will choose the path of least resistance and find a new pathway.
“These weather patterns can be very widespread and very difficult to alter, which is why we sometimes experience prolonged periods of extreme cold.”
Hughes noted that temperatures in Calgary have been “well below” seasonal since the start of February.
“In fact, for most of this cold snap, we have had daytime highs colder than our average overnight lows.”
Area ski and snowboard hills remain closed Thursday
The cold weather has forced several Calgary and area ski and snowboard facilities to close to the public.
WinSport’s hill at Canada Olympic Park in Calgary, Sunshine Village in Banff and Nakiska Ski Area in Kananaskis will all be closed Thursday.
However, WinSport has said it will be reopening its ski and snowboard hill on Friday with reduced hours.
“After five consecutive days of closures due to cold temperatures, the hill will be open on Friday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.,” a news release stated. “Saturday marks the return of regular weekend operating hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with one chair lift and limited conveyors operating, depending on guest count.”
Based on the current forecast for Sunday, WinSport anticipates the hill will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with a final decision to be made on Thursday.
Holiday Monday, meanwhile, will have extended hours of 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
The tube park at WinSport will be closed Friday and Saturday, with a tentative reopening scheduled for Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
School closures Thursday due to cold weather
On Thursday, several schools outside of Calgary announced they would be closed due to the cold, including:
- Footsteps Preschool and The Learning Place Preschool in Cochrane
- Rocky View Schools is closing all schools. No buses will be running
- Chinook’s Edge (school division no. 73) schools
- Schools in the Foothills School District will be open but buses are cancelled
- École francophone d’Airdrie
- École Notre-Dame des Vallées (Cochrane)
Furnace repair calls up
As frigid temperatures continue throughout the week, one Calgary repair company said it is being inundated with calls for service.
Pete Archdekin with Pete the Plumber said when the temperatures dip below -20 C, that’s when systems break down and the calls increase.
“It has been unbelievable. I could have used 20 more trucks. We have 41, I could have used 61,” Archdekin said.
“Everybody’s furnace and hot water tank are doing double, triple duty when it gets past -20. All sorts of weird things happen to heating systems,” he said.
Archdekin said older furnaces have to continually work overtime, especially during cold temperatures, and that can lead to overheating and parts breaking down.
“It’s like asking a marathon runner to run the marathon, and do it again. You’re just beat. Furnaces that (are) over 10, 12 or 15 years old, it’s being beat. It’s running all the time, overheating parts, melting parts (and) breaking down.”
According to Archdekin, furnaces have a life span of around 20 years, and as they inch toward that, that’s when it can cost homeowners money.
He recommends people invest in a high-efficiency furnace, and said it will save homeowners money and heachache, in the long run.
“The average would be maximum 20 years. Now, you’re going to get people out there with older furnaces of course, but what happens is around 17, 18 (years) it’s going to start costing you money… Get a new high–efficiency furnace. It’s going to pay for itself — especially if you’ve got an old (one) — it’s going to pay for itself in two years.”
He also recommends keeping ducts clean and schedule a yearly maintenance.
“Clean is the key. You want your ducts cleaned out, you want it maintenanced once a year, whether it’s old or new or whatever, you have to have it maintenanced,” he said.
“Even the brand-new high-efficiency ones we’re putting in now, the warranty says you have to have this inspected once a year and maintained to keep your warranty up, so that’s so important.” a
— With files from Christa Dao