Get ready for lows of -25 C in Calgary by the weekend

Calgarians are being warned to brace for a blast of severe weather as an Arctic system moves southward over the next couple of days.

AMA warning motorists to be prepared to travel safely during cold snap

Ice fog shrouds the Bow River early Monday morning at St. Patrick's Island in southwest Calgary in February, 2019. Environment Canada says it's going to be very cold in Calgary by the weekend. (Christine Boyd/CBC)

Calgarians are being warned to brace for a blast of severely cold weather as an Arctic system moves southward over the next couple of days.

Parts of northern Alberta are already under Environment Canada extreme cold warnings with wind chill temperatures near minus 40 degrees Celsius expected in Fort McMurray and High Level.

By Saturday, the agency says the extreme cold will extend into southern Alberta.

Calgary can expect lows that plunge to –25 or even lower by the weekend. 

The Alberta Motor Association urged Albertans to take safety measures ahead of the cold snap.

In February 2019, Alberta experienced wind chill values between –40 and –45, and most of southern and central Alberta were under extreme cold warnings issued by Environment Canada.

According to YYC Weather Records — a Twitter account run by computer scientist Rolf Campbell, who developed software to pull in Environment Canada data to create weather statistics — last winter featured the longest cold snap in the city since January 1998.

Albertans contacted roadside assistance a record number of times during the punishing deep-freeze, the AMA said in a Monday news release, and at the time cited more than 31,000 roadside assistance requests in two days. To put that figure in perspective, the AMA  received 6,300 calls for that same stretch in 2018.

With temperatures in Calgary and Edmonton projected to drop into negative double-digits early this week, the AMA is offering tips to reduce the risk of emergency.

Ahead of a projected drop in temperatures, the AMA is warning Albertans to take precautions to stay safe. (Alberta Motor Association)
Edmonton's forecast has temperatures dropping and staying below –10 C on Monday night. (Environment Canada)

According to the AMA, these steps can help prevent an emergency situation:

  • Prior to driving, plug in your vehicle for at least four hours when the outdoor temperature is –15°C or below.
  • Always carry an emergency kit to help ensure your safety in the event of an unexpected breakdown. This should include things like a blanket, warm clothing, caution triangles, a flashlight, gloves and a folding shovel.
  • Clear off your vehicle thoroughly before leaving to ensure your lines of sight aren't obstructed by snow or ice.
  • If you have any doubts about your battery's health, consider alternate transportation until a test is completed or new battery is installed. This could save you from being stranded outdoors in extreme temperatures.
  • If your vehicle doesn't have a block heater, switching to synthetic oil will help the engine turn over.
  • Ensure your gas tank is at least half full and consider using gas-line antifreeze.
  • Swapping to winter tires will give you much better traction on snow and ice, reduce your stopping distance and provide much better control.

As winter weather arrives in earnest, the AMA is also encouraging Albertans to exercise more caution on the roads. They say that drivers should:

  • Scan the road ahead and maintain a safe following distance that allows for adjustments. When the roads are icy or snowy, this means four to six seconds.
  • Drive to conditions, keeping in mind that the posted speed limit refers to ideal conditions.
  • Ensure that tires are properly inflated, as most tires lose one pound per square inch for every 5 C drop in temperature.
  • Put their personal safety first if a vehicle should break down during extreme cold. Get to a warm place, as frigid temperatures make it dangerous to be outdoors (even inside a car).