Arctic blast descends on Central, Eastern Canada

An Arctic blast has descended on Central and Eastern Canada, where temperatures feel like -30 to -45 C with the wind chill.

Environment Canada warns against spending too much time outdoors

If you want to go outside when the temperatures plunge, a facemask can protect from frostbite and windburn. (Pawel Dwulit/Canadian Press)

Bitter cold is gripping parts of Central and Eastern Canada as temperatures dipped to -45 C with the wind chill in some areas.

Environment Canada issued cold or winter storm warnings on Saturday for provinces from Manitoba to Newfoundland and Labrador.

The national weather forecaster said temperatures could fall to -45 C in Ottawa on Saturday with the wind chill, warming up to -35 C overnight. 

In New Brunswick, temperatures were expected to hover between -35 C and -40 C with the wind chill until Sunday.

Quebec and Manitoba can expect much of the same, with temperatures warming up early next week.

Meanwhile, Newfoundland was bracing for a winter storm that could bring up to 20 cm of snow to eastern parts of the island.

Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, and eastern Newfoundland all had cold alerts in areas.

Toronto, Ottawa, Winnipeg, Montreal and Fredericton were expected to be among the coldest cities over the next two days.

Environment Canada blames the extreme cold on an Arctic ridge of high pressure sliding southward toward the U.S. Midwest. On the other side of it, Calgary will be seeing temperatures of 9 C over the next two days. (Environment Canada)

"We're going to see Ottawa today, the last weekend of Winterlude, the high today -24, the wind chills -33. That's going to freeze flesh in a matter of minutes, so it's almost as if it is too extreme to enjoy the outdoors," said Dave Phillips, senior climatologist with Environment Canada, on Saturday. 

Environment Canada said, "Some improvement is expected on Sunday as temperatures moderate somewhat." It issued an extreme cold warning for the region.

Manitoba experienced the worst of the cold front on Friday, its fifth day of extreme lows in temperature and wind chill values of -40 in southern regions, dipping to -45 to -50 in northern areas.

Environment Canada blames the extreme cold on an Arctic ridge of high pressure sliding southward toward the U.S. Midwest.

If you are outside in extremely cold temperatures this weekend be sure to bundle up to avoid hypothermia and frostbite. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

"Some are at greater risk than others for frostbite and hypothermia: homeless people, outdoor workers, people living in homes that are poorly insulated or with no heat or no power, people with certain medical conditions such as diabetes, peripheral neuropathy and diseases affecting the blood vessels, people taking certain medications including beta-blockers, winter sport enthusiasts, people who consume excess alcohol, infants, and seniors." the agency warns.

Effects on wildlife

South of the border in New York City, the blast of Arctic air forced the cancellation of the city's annual Central Park Ice Festival.

"There are also the long-term effects," Phillips told CBC News. "We won't know what the full accounting of this will be until we get to the summer."

Due to periods of milder temperatures this winter, some wildlife have been caught on the ground rather than burrowing beneath the snow, he says.

"This winter may be known as a pothole kind of winter because of the freeze/thaw cycle periods we have seen."

With files from The Canadian Press

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