Environment Canada issues extreme cold warning for all of Alberta

The entire province of Alberta was placed under an extreme cold warning Saturday as an arctic air mass blankets much of Canada.

Temperature forecast to reach -44 C with the wind chill in Calgary and -45 C in Edmonton

EMS says anyone working outside should dress in layers and take regular breaks to warm up. The entire province was under an extreme cold warning on Saturday. (Terri Trembath/CBC)

The entire province of Alberta was placed under an extreme cold warning Saturday as an arctic air mass blankets much of Canada.

In Calgary, Environment Canada forecasts temperatures to dip to -31 C overnight, which will feel like -44 C with the wind chill. Temperatures in Edmonton will drop to -33 C overnight, which will feel like -45 C with the wind chill. 

Several centimetres of snow also fell over Calgary early Saturday, causing havoc for drivers.

Between 6 a.m. and 5 p.m. Saturday, 141 crashes were reported to police, most of them minor.

Two people were taken to hospital by paramedics to be treated for hypothermia, said EMS spokesman Adam Loria.

"The wind chill is really what will get people. And any exposed skin with these temperatures can experience minor frostbite, sometimes within a number of seconds, maybe a number of minutes," he said.

"This type of frostbite is easily resolved or rectified once you get into a warm environment, the numbness and tingling and pain should subside. But if left untreated, any exposed skin with that wind can lead to some more serious problems."

For those who do have to go outside, Loria recommends dressing in layers and covering up as much as possible.

"And take periodic breaks, no matter what you're doing outside, if it's shoveling snow or working. Your body uses a lot of energy to keep its normal temperature," he said.

"If you become warm, it's easier to take a layer off then put that layer back on, rather than not having enough layers, which is when hypothermia will take effect."

That also goes for anyone out celebrating New Year's Eve in Calgary on Sunday, Loria said, as the temperature is forecast to be around -26 C without the wind chill.

"It's not just dressing appropriately, but ensuring you have a safe way to get home," he said. "Be prepared and plan ahead, make sure you have the appropriate clothing and footwear and make sure you have the keys to your house. Have a parka and tuque and mittens with that gown."

The bitter cold forced the cancellation of the city's outdoor New Year's Eve celebrations, which were planned for Olympic Plaza.

The ball will still drop at midnight, which will be broadcast on television.

Respite from the cold is in sight as chinook winds are expected to blow in to Calgary on Monday, bringing the temperature to a balmy -4 C. It's expected to reach 9 C by Friday.

With files from Terri Trembath