The teeth-chattering cold snap that has caught many Canadians off guard following a mild start to the winter, and is seizing vehicle engines, rupturing water mains and setting cold-weather records in many parts of the country, is expected to last at least until the weekend.
The coldest measured temperature in the world, as of 6 a.m. ET Wednesday, was –43.1 C in Little Chicago, N.W.T., with Rouyn Airport in Quebec second at –40.3 C and Jakutsk, Russia, recording –38.8 C.
Ottawa was at its coldest in eight years, hovering around –27 C in the morning, but feeling more like –38 C with the wind chill.
CBC's Ashley Burke, braving the frigid air at 6 a.m. in the capital, reported that Ottawa Public Health had issued a frostbite warning, and was reminding people it only takes five to 10 minutes for exposed skin to freeze once the mercury dips to –25 C and below.
"Shelters are full, they're at capacity," she said, adding that emergency spaces were opening up and staff at homeless shelters were laying down mats to create makeshift sleeping quarters.
Staff at homeless shelters were handing out complimentary mitts, hats and gloves for anyone insisting on venturing outsdide, though Ottawa public health officials are advising people to stay indoors if they can. Fortunately, parademics said that overnight, there were no cases of hypothermia or frostbite.
The Canadian Automobile Association told Burke they had already received about 1,200 calls about dead car batteries, stalled vehicles and requests for towing services. Still, she said, "that doesn't beat north Manitoba, which set a record with 1,500 calls in one day."
In Ottawa, the cold weather isn't all bad news, as the Rideau Canal has opened up another three-kilometre stretch for skaters keen to get outside no matter how cold it gets.
Northern Ontario and Quebec were forecast to have wind chill values into the –30s and –40s, with wind-chill warnings throughout northeastern Ontario and through central Quebec, CBC meterologist Jay Scotland said.
"Minus 18 C is the actual temperature," Scotland said from downtown Toronto early Wednesday, noting that it feels like –26 C with the wind chill. While a far cry from other cold regions of the country like northern Manitoba, which has a projected high of –26 C and an extreme wind chill making it feel like –41 C, he noted that many Canadians feel shocked by the sudden drops in temperature after two relatively warm winters.
"The last couple winters, many Canadians have been spoiled," he said.
One homeless person who died early Tuesday morning was found outside a Toronto-area restaurant without vital signs. Police said he had suffered from hypothermia, though it hasn't been confirmed that he froze to death.
Anyone who spots homeless people in need of shelter is advised to call the City of Toronto's 311 hotline.
- Cold temperatures close northwestern schools
Temperatures across the Maritimes will be into the minus double digits again for daytime highs, and wind-chill values are expected to range from the –20s to well into the –30s for New Brunswick, P.E.I. and parts of central Nova Scotia.
Heavy Tuesday snowfall in St. John's also means many people in Newfoundland will be digging themselves out this morning, Scotland added. Snow squall warnings are in place across western and southern Newfoundland.
Several schools in northwestern New Brunswick are closed Wednesday due to the freezing weather.
Canadians hoping for a break from the frigid temperatures that have descended across much of the country are out of luck.
The Arctic air mass responsible for double-digit windchill warnings will continue until the weekend, CBC News meteorologist Johanna Wagstaffe forecast. The high-pressure ridge is expected to move eastward through to the weekend when some areas of Canada will begin to see seasonable temperatures.
That's small comfort to cities such as Ottawa, where the local health unit issued a frostbite warning earlier today when a wind chill forecast of –35C was issued.
Blizzard and snowfall warnings were in effect along the west coast of Newfoundland and southeastern Nova Scotia, where drivers were warned to give themselves ample time to reach morning destinations due to blowing snow and poor visibility. The snow was expected to stop overnight.
How cold was it? Cold enough for eyelashes to freeze in Montreal on Monday. It was -17°C before the wind chill.
Welcome to winter in Montreal. The statistically coldest month of the year, you'll curse beautiful days right about now because a sunny one in January nearly guarantees it's bone-chilling cold outside whereas a gray, cloudy day tends to announce a "warmer" outdoor experience likely complemented by snowfall. And if you don't know what wind chill means yet, you'll soon find out.
- Average January temperature: -8.9ºC / 16ºF
- Average January high (day): -5.4ºC / 22ºF
- Average January low (night): -12.4ºC / 10ºF
- Record high: 12.8ºC / 55ºF
- Record low: -33.5ºC / -28ºF
- Precipitation**: oddly enough, January in Montreal may include up to 6 days with rain (expect freezing rain). But snow is more likely on the agenda, with an average of 14 days of light snowfall and up to 4 days of heavier snowfall, on average.
A hearty down jacket is the best way to ensure a minimum of comfort as are thick gloves, a scarf and tuque, hat or hood. On very cold days, make sure to cover the head, ears and hands as they easily lose heat. Also, insulated boots, preferably water resistant or even better, waterproof, are highly recommended.
- Visiting Montreal in January? Pack:
- long sleeved shirts, sweaters, short-sleeved and sleeveless shirts to be layered with cardigans, fleece and outerwear
- wool sweaters, cardigans, wraps, blazers, jackets, wool jackets, trench coats, down coats
- long pants, jeans, skirts/dresses with tights, leggings (bare legs are a bad idea)
- closed toe shoes, boots (preferably insulated and water resistant)
- scarves, gloves, hats, tuques, ear muffs
- sunglasses and sunscreen are a must year round