Extreme cold blasts Manitoba yet again

It's bitterly cold again in Manitoba. Again. What a surprise.
A long line of semi-trailers makes its way to Winnipeg on Monday morning after the Trans-Canada reopened. The highway was closed Sunday afternoon due to stormy conditions that made visibility extremely poor. (Holly Caruk/CBC)

It's bitterly cold again in Manitoba. Again. What a surprise.

Most of the province is under an extreme wind chill warning that has forced numerous schools to cancel classes.

In the north, winds combined with temperatures around 35 C are making it feel more like 45 to 50. Wind chill values will moderate during the day above the 45 mark but extreme wind chills are possible again overnight in some places, according to Environment Canada.

All areas coloured red are under extreme wind chill warnings. (Environment Canada)
The situation is much the same in the south, where cold Arctic air and winds are creating wind chill values of –40 to –45.

The extreme wind chills will last well into the morning and may redevelop tonight.

At these extreme wind chill values frostbite on exposed skin may occur in less than 10 minutes.

The normal temperatures for this time of year are a daytime high of –12 C and an overnight low of –22 C.

Daytime temperatures aren't expected to get to that range anytime soon, though the bitter cold is expected to move out by mid-week.

The highs for Monday and Tuesday are forecasted to be –24 C and –20 C, respectively.

Things will get a little better after that, hitting highs of –15 C to –17 C over the next few days into Sunday.

Trucks stranded

Blowing snow and zero visibility forced truckers off the road just west of Winnipeg on Sunday after the Trans-Canada Highway was closed between Portage la Prairie and Headingley.

Driver Todd Skeochs said several trucks heading west pulled in at about 5:30 p.m. because of the white-out conditions.

That stretch of road has been shut down many times already this winter, leaving long lines of semi-trailers and other vehicles waiting out in nearby restaurants and hotels.

 Skeochs has been driving for more than 20 years and said that part of the highway has a bad reputation.

"This stretch from Winnipeg to Portage is, I call it blizzard alley. It seems to be the worst weather in all of Canada just in that little stretch," he said.

That wasn't the only area affected, however. At one point, Highways 59 and 75 were also closed.

Trucks on the Trans-Canada finally got moving again just after 7 a.m. Monday.

Terry Shaw, general manager at the Manitoba Trucking Association, said it not only costs companies more to have drivers sitting and waiting, it can also end up having a major impact on food trucked into the city.

Idling trucks mean a lot of the product can spoil waiting to be delivered.

"Are we losing this product while it sits on a trailer? What's the quality impact and a whole host of other concerns [have to be considered],” he said.

“It's just not people and trucks out on the road. There's logistics behind it."

Shaw can't put a number on how much the highway closures could cost the industry but he said the international border crossing on Highway 75 at Emerson is the fifth busiest in Canada.

"There’s $17 or $19 billion annually in commerce that crosses just that border alone, so I mean what's that over two days? Let alone the [trucks delayed on] Highway 1."

Mail delayed

Highway closures and hazardous driving conditions have also delayed mail delivery.

Canada Post released a statement on Monday saying that trucks transporting mail to Portage la Prairie, Brandon and Dauphin were put behind schedule on the weekend.

"The mail has started to arrive and every attempt is being made to get all the mail out for delivery but some addresses may not receive mail today," the statement said.

"Once the conditions improve normal delivery will resume."