Freezing temperatures reported as Arctic air settles throughout British Columbia
Warming shelters opened in Vancouver as temperatures set to drop 5 C to 10 C below seasonal average
An Arctic air mass settled over much of B.C. Saturday, bringing unseasonably cold temperatures to the province and leading to concern for underhoused people.
Environment Canada has now lifted nearly all of the special weather statements that covered much of western and southern B.C. Saturday, warning of the short cold snap.
The chilly conditions are expected to last through Monday, according to the forecaster. According to a Sunday morning forecast, the temperature on Sunday afternoon in Vancouver will be around 3 C. The seasonal average is 6.8 C.
Arctic air led and flowing wind gusts led to it feeling like –6 C overnight in Metro Vancouver, according to Environment Canada, with another chilly night in store for Sunday.
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Similar unseasonably low temperatures were reported in the Interior, with wind chill set to make it feel like –8 C in Kamloops, B.C. on Sunday.
"A short period of gusty winds will accompany the cold air's arrival through the Interior, and may combine with snow leading to a brief period of blowing snow," the special weather statement read.
Two extreme cold warnings have been issued for the Yoho Park - Kootenay Park and Elk Valley regions on the B.C.-Alberta border, warning of wind chill that could make it feel like –35 C overnight.
"Conditions are expected to be moderate by [Sunday] afternoon as temperatures rise, however wind chill values near –35 C will return [Sunday night] and into Monday morning," the warning reads.
Concern for vulnerable people
The cold blast is concerning advocates for people experiencing homelessness, especially after a snowy December saw a series of storms that significantly impacted people on the South Coast.
Numerous municipalities, including Vancouver, Burnaby and Squamish are opening emergency warming centres to cope with the weather.
Please share: Additional shelter spaces and warming centres are available tonight through Monday, January 30, due to an Extreme Weather Alert.<br><br>Details below ⬇️ <a href="https://t.co/Kt8cla7a4D">pic.twitter.com/Kt8cla7a4D</a>—@CityofVancouver
In Vancouver, the Union Gospel Mission says its 92-bed shelter will be open throughout the cold snap, with rescue vehicles set to be out on the streets in the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley to offer aid to those who need it.
"For folks that can't get a good night's sleep chronically, it really can impact even just being able to think about next steps and move forward," said Rachael Allen, a spokesperson for the charity. "We're really excited to offer our shelter here and provide that support."
Allen says that she feels that, anecdotally, the issue of homelessness has been getting worse in Metro Vancouver. It has been three years since the last homeless count was conducted in Vancouver, which found 2,095 residents experiencing homelessness.
"We're grateful that the homeless count is happening again in March," she said.
"Because then we will actually be able to get a better idea of how many people are struggling with homelessness and what we can do to help them."
With files from Janella Hamilton