Yellowknife sees brief reprieve from deep freeze

It’s -26 in Yellowknife today… a pleasant break after a deep freeze and a December where the average temperature was -34.
Tourists in Yellowknife brave -40 C and ice fog on New Year's Day to get a view of Great Slave Lake from Pilot's Monument in Old Town. (Sara Minogue/CBC)

Yellowknife is coming out of one of the worst cold snaps in recent memory.

Between Christmas and New Year’s Day, lows in the city hovered between -33 and - 41 C. The average temperature for the entire month of December was -34, with seven days below -40.

Three days before New Year's, a power outage left the city in the dark for three hours in -37 C.

Yellowknife Mayor Mark Heyck says he hasn't seen cold like this since he was a boy.

Doaa Helal says her three kids still get outside 'when it’s only mild, like -30 or something.'
“There was one time we were in a tent,” he recalls. “We had left all our boots outside the tent and woke up and they were frozen solid so we couldn't get our feet in our boots… so we started a fire and put our boots on sticks to warm them up and melted all the treads off our boots.”

“Oh it’s freezing cold,” says Doaa Helal, who moved to Yellowknife from Ontario three years ago. “At least we know what to expect here in the North.”

Fortunately, Helal says her three kids don’t feel the cold as much as her, and they still get outside. “When it’s only mild, like -30 or something.”

Horses in Yellowknife wear blankets and enjoy a heated trough during the cold snap.
Alex Hampson has a stable with three horses outside of Yellowknife.

She says she pays careful attention to the animals when temperatures plunge.

“It’s very strategic,” she says. “They wear warm blankets… they eat a lot of extra hay and they have a heated water trough. And they don’t go out for very long because we worry about frostbite on their ears.”

Cold bad for homes, good for business

As Yellowknifers tried to protect their homes and cars from succumbing to the extreme cold, business for some people was booming.

This giant sign on Yellowknife's main drag was a source of amusement to Yellowknifers. (CBC)
Richard Kresky is the general manager for Canadian Tire.

“We're selling a lot of battery blankets, booster cables, extension cords, and especially batteries,” he says. “Quite a few batteries are going, they’re freezing up in the cold.”

Unfortunately, Kresky says, the empty shelves mirror the feeling of many of his customers.

“A lot of the purchases right now are grudge purchases where it's after Christmas and they don't want to spend the money.”

At least one Yellowknifer spent part of the holidays helping unfreeze the water pipes of a friend who’d headed out of town for the holidays.  

“The pipes were solidly frozen when we first got here,” says Ashley Geraghty. “We were about four people working on the lines with hairdryers and heat guns trying to get the lines open.”

He suspects a lot of people are doing the same thing.

“All the people in town that do this type of work are just running off their feet trying to keep it going.”

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