Much of the Canadian Prairies are shivering through a deep freeze that has sent temperatures plunging to what feels like -50 C with wind chill, as blizzard-like conditions forced the closure of highways and schools.
People were warned of the danger of simply being outside as the frosty Arctic air mass created blizzards while rolling across the Prairies. Police in Calgary are trying to determine whether a man found lying in the middle of a street Tuesday morning froze to death as overnight temperatures in the city dipped to -33 C.
"With the wind chills and the bitter temperatures, this is the coldest cold snap since last year," said Dan Kulak, who said frigid temperatures could last for several days.
The wind chill factor is used by weather forecasters to tell us how much colder the wind makes unprotected skin feel.
With the wind chill, Tuesday's predicted temperatures across Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba are expected to feel like:
- Fort McMurray, Alta.: -42 C
- Grande Prairie, Alta.: -53 C
- Edmonton: -54 C
- Calgary: -44 C
- La Ronge, Sask.: -50 C
- Regina: -51 C
- Churchill, Man.: -44 C
- Thompson, Man.: -42 C
- Winnipeg: -40 C
Schools in parts of Saskatchewan are closed for a second day Tuesday after blizzard-like conditions rolled through the province a day earlier. Whiteouts have also made driving treacherous on some Saskatchewan highways.
SaskPower officials say the province set a power consumption record Monday evening.
"We actually set a new instantaneous peak record. Instantaneous peak is the most power consumed by our customers in the history of SaskPower at a moment in time," said SaskPower official Larry Christie.
"And last night, at 6:12 p.m. [local], we passed the old record, and set a new one of 3008 megawatts."
The previous record of 2969 megawatts was set on Feb. 1, 2007.
Roads closed in Manitoba
Blizzard-like conditions in southern Manitoba have forced the closure of schools in many parts of the province, along with a number of highways, including the TransCanada near the Saskatchewan border, and Highway 75 between Winnipeg and the U.S. border.
Officials say blowing snow has reduced visibility.
School buses have been pulled off the roads in parts of Alberta, as officials in Edmonton and Calgary advised people to give themselves a little extra time for their morning commute.
There was traffic chaos in the two cities Monday as drivers tried to start their vehicles and then spun their tires and fishtailed on snow-covered roads made icy by the deep freeze.
City officials said crews worked throughout the night to keep the roads clear.
Roads icy, closed
Aid workers in Edmonton have increased their help to the homeless, offering extra gloves, socks and boots and extended the hours of their warming van that travels around the city.
"Because the change was so drastic and happened so quickly, we had a couple staff out during the day in a separate vehicle under the bridges and into other places where we know people are staying," outreach worker Sandy Erickson said.
In Calgary, EMS units patrolled city streets to offer help to the homeless. Paramedic Ryan Collyer said they're on the lookout for people with drug or alcohol addictions who aren't prepared for such cold temperatures.
"We want to … try and facilitate getting them to a shelter … to get them out of the cold," he said.
His partner Derrick Butler says he tries to return and check up on people living on the streets.
"There is a little part of me, in the back of my head that wonders … are they gonna be OK? I try not to dwell on it but I'll make the good effort to go back later and drive by to see if they're still there. That is about all we can do."