Western Canada grapples with extreme cold

A wave of Arctic air is creating dangerous conditions in Western Canada, with the entire province of Alberta under an extreme cold warning, along with parts of B.C., Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

“There were parts of Alberta that were 15 degrees colder than what we’re seeing at the North Pole,” Environment Canada senior climatologist Dave Phillips told CTV News Channel on Tuesday.

The culprit is a wave of thick, Arctic air from Siberia that made its way down through the territories.

“It’s dense. It’s like molasses, and it just sweeps down, just crawling down and getting every little crack in the in the provinces,” Phillips said.


It’s been so cold in Edmonton, even local ski hills are shutting down until temperatures warm up.

On Monday morning, Edmonton saw temperatures plummet to -41.6 C on Monday morning, feeling like -55 C with the wind chill. The mercury is dropping to -29 C on Tuesday and Wednesday night, which will feel like -39 C with the wind chill.

All ski hills in the city announced closures due to the extreme cold. Even ski resorts in the Rocky Mountains are closing until further notice.


Homeless shelters in Western Canada have been busy making sure the most vulnerable are staying warm.

“What we do expect in these temperatures is an increase in folks that need to use the shelter,” said Shaundra Bruvall, communications manager of Alpha House in Lethbridge, Alta. “We’ve been very fortunate to have funding and capacity for that.”

In Vancouver, the extreme cold has driven shelters over capacity. The city announced that warming shelters will be open until New Year’s Day.

Community organizations in Winnipeg have also been reaching out to homeless people and distributing essentials.

“It’s out on the road in this extreme weather, doing wellbeing checks, giving people rides, offering people harm reduction supplies, food, beverages, a warm drink, clothing and blankets,” said Anastasia Ziprick, director of development with Main Street Project in Winnipeg.


It was so cold in B.C., the province’s utility company reported that residents set a new record for peak electricity demand.

Between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. on Monday evening, demand reached a peak of 10,902 megwatts, BC Hydro reported.

BC Hydro believes the record was reached as its customers turned up the heat on a particularly cold day across the province but says there’s enough supply to satisfy the high demand.

However, the Alberta Electric System Operator declared a Level 2 energy emergency on Tuesday evening and has asked Albertans reduce their use of major appliances

A Level 2 alert means operating reserves are being used to supply some energy grid requirements and power service is maintained with load management strategies, including voluntary curtailment, non-essential load and voltage reductions.

The internal load for the power grid peaked around 6 p.m. Monday, when demand required more than 11,500 megawatts.


Some relief from these frigid conditions is expected by the end of the week. On Saturday, Environment and Climate Change Canada says the mercury will rise to 2 C in Calgary and -14 C in Edmonton.

In Vancouver, a high of -3 C is expected on Thursday and Friday, with temperatures hitting 0 C on Saturday.

Regina and Saskatoon will also see temperatures warm up to -7 C and -11 C on Sunday, respectively.

Phillips calls this warm-up an “intermission” and says more cold weather will be back for a second round by next week after New Year’s.

“In the long term, we’re talking about January being colder than normal,” he said.

“There’s always a good chance that we see some moderation occurring, perhaps maybe sometime in the second week or middle of January.”

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