Cold weather misery for Edmontonians as Alberta remains in deep freeze

A blast of Arctic air has brought icy temperatures to Alberta, creating cold weather misery for Edmontonians — killing car batteries, straining the power grid and increasing the risk of frostbite. 

Blast of frigid air will cloak Alberta for remainder of the week

Icy temperatures persist across Alberta after days of record lows. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

A blast of Arctic air has brought icy temperatures to Alberta, creating cold weather misery for Edmontonians — killing car batteries, straining the power grid and increasing the risk of frostbite. 

After days of dangerously cold temperatures, almost the entire province remains under an extreme cold warning.

The relentless cold has made the winter inhospitable with a biting wind chill that makes the air feel like it's between –40 and –45.

A mass of swirling icy air continues to cloak the province and Environment Canada is warning Albertans to keep inside.

"I'm not used to this," said Patrick Mcmann, who was waiting for a bus in downtown Edmonton on Monday.

'Absolutely terrible' 

"This is getting ridiculous," said Mcmann, who was complaining of a frozen nose and longing for a Calgary chinook. "Terrible. Absolutely terrible." 

The frigid cold took hold over the Christmas weekend and, as the deep freeze lingered, dozens of new daily temperature records have been set. At least 15 Alberta communities, including Edmonton, reached record lows on Monday. 

Environment Canada has warned that the province could be left shivering all week, even longer. 

Patrick Mcmann, who was out in the cold in downtown Edmonton on Monday, says the cold snap has become insufferable. (Nathan Gross/CBC)

Edmontonians could see some reprieve on Saturday, when temperatures are forecast to reach –11 C, but temperatures are expected to plunge again next week. 

Albertans are urged to limit their time outside until things thaw out. 

"Cover up. Frostbite can develop within minutes on exposed skin, especially with wind chill," Environment Canada warned. 

"Risks are greater for young children, older adults, people with chronic illnesses, people working or exercising outdoors, and those without proper shelter."

The City of Edmonton activated its extreme weather response two weeks ago and, every night, dedicated buses are shuttling people off the streets to warming shelters.

Emergency shelter space has been temporarily expanded to ensure vulnerable people have a warm place to stay.

It was so cold on Monday, the city announced it would pause non-essential snow clearing and pull its crews off the road until conditions improve.

"Due to the extreme cold, non-essential snow clearing work including clearing in Phase 2 residential areas have been paused, effective immediately," the city said. "The current temperatures present a significant risk to our staff, equipment and contracted equipment." 

The cold temperatures are putting an added strain on the power grid. The Alberta Energy System Operator (AESO) issued a Level 2 emergency alert Monday night, due to the weather affecting some energy generation.

According to the AESO, the province has since returned to normal operations but Albertans are being asked to conserve power and cut back on electricity use during the cold snap to ease the ongoing strain on the grid. 

7,500 calls for service

The cold is also causing problems for drivers. The Alberta Motor Association says there is at least a 40-hour wait for battery boosts in Edmonton. Drivers in the city could be waiting up to 76 hours to get towed by an AMA operator.

The association advises drivers to avoid non-essential trips, to keep their vehicles stocked with emergency supplies, and to plug in block heaters four hours before driving.

The AMA received 7,500 calls for roadside assistance across the province on Monday and call volumes are up 800 per cent over regular levels, spokesperson Jeff Kasbrick said in an interview Tuesday.

"We knew that our winter would contain at least one extreme weather event, and we definitely find ourselves within it," Kasbrick said.

"This, by any measure, is an extreme event and there is significant demand on our roadside operations.

"We're bringing all resources to bear and we are going to be getting to everybody as soon as we possibly can." 

John Ravlisca said the weather was starting to get to him. He was running errands downtown in Edmonton Monday, and preparing to help his uncle boost his car's dead battery. 

"It just couldn't start. He even plugged it in. It was just too cold," Ravlisca said.

"It's too cold, way too cold."

WATCH | The cold is affecting prairie provinces:

Unbearable cold weather shatters records across Western Canada

5 months ago
Duration 2:05
A blast of winter from Manitoba to B.C. is shattering cold weather records, with frigid temperatures expected to continue into the new year.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?