Edmonton braces for weekend deep freeze

The mercury will fall even further, feeling like –41 C overnight into Sunday. The coldest wind chill values will be between minus 40 and minus 45.

Extreme cold warning issued on Saturday

A lot of this expected over the weekend in Edmonton. (Sebastien Tanguay/CBC)

Edmonton is bracing for its coldest days of winter so far this year.

An extreme cold warning was issued for the Edmonton region Saturday, and almost every part of northern Alberta. Communities ranging from Whitecourt to Cold Lake are feeling the freeze. 

In Edmonton, it's expected to feel like –34 C with the windchill on Saturday with a risk of frostbite, according to Environment Canada. 

The mercury will fall even further, feeling like –41 C overnight into Sunday. The coldest wind chill values will be between minus 40 and minus 45. 

Aside from Friday, when temperatures plunged to a high of –19 C, the next coldest day this winter was a high of –15.4 C on Jan. 17.

Weather can be 'devastating'

The deep freeze temperatures pose a serious risk to the city's homeless population. Frostbite on exposed skin can set in within minutes.

"This is the most difficult time of the year for the people that we serve," said Elliott Tanti, communications lead for Boyle Street Community Services.

"These are the days that take years off the lives of the people that we serve. The weather can be quite devastating."

Boyle Street extends its hours in the winter as part of Edmonton's warming strategy. The centre will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. as a refuge from the bitter cold.

​Tanti said the centre expects to serve upwards of 700 people this weekend, two to three times more than an average weekend.  

The centre's outreach team will also be checking in on camps of people known to sleep in different areas of the city, Tanti said.

Homeward Trust, the organization that coordinates the city's homeless shelters, said in a news release Friday that it anticipated shelters would be able to handle demands for beds during the extreme cold.

Ice On Whyte cancelled, Snow Valley closed

The Ice On Whyte festival site will be closed on Sunday due to the extreme cold warning issued by Environment Canada.

"We invite all ticket purchasers to redeem their tickets [on Saturday]," said marketing manager Courtney Sidders in an emailed statement. The Beer Stew Off at Situation Brewing on Sunday is still set to go ahead.

Ice On Whyte is an outdoor festival featuring ice sculptures created by 10 local and international ice carvers, along with an ice bar. The annual festival in Edmonton is in its 16th year.

Those hoping to embrace the cold weather by hitting the slopes won't be able to do so at Snow Valley Ski Club on Sunday and Monday. The southwest Edmonton ski hill was open Saturday.

Extreme cold and snowfall warnings

Environment Canada issued a snowfall warning for Edmonton Friday, forecasting up to 40 centimetres of accumulated snow by Saturday night. The storm started Thursday night and continued into Friday, making for a slippery end of week commute.

Edmonton police reported 130 collisions as of 4 p.m. Friday, six involving injuries.

Edmonton police reported 130 collisions by 4 p.m. Friday as 40 centimetres is expected to fall on the city by Saturday evening. (Sebastien Tanguay/CBC)

The Alberta Motor Association (AMA) issued a reminder on Thursday asking people to plug in their cars to avoid dead batteries. In extreme cold, calls for dead batteries represent more than 40 per cent of requests versus 26 per cent on a normal winter day, according to the AMA.

Environment Canada issues snowfall warnings when 10 centimetres is expected within a 12-hour period. Extreme cold warnings are issued when very cold temperatures or wind chill elevate the risk of frostbite and hypothermia.


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