Frigid, dangerous cold grips nearly all of Manitoba

Manitoba remains in the clutches of an extreme cold warning that is bringing wind chill values as biting as –50.

Cold air will remain anchored over Manitoba through the weekend and into next week

Winnipeg, like most of Manitoba, is under an extreme cold warning that started on Thursday and doesn't look to be letting up anytime soon. (Darren Bernhardt/CBC)

Manitoba remains in the clutches of an extreme cold warning that is bringing wind chill values as biting as –50.

And it doesn't look to be letting up anytime soon.

Environment Canada says "a multi-day episode of very cold wind chills is expected" as a ridge of high pressure settles into the province.

Across the south, the daytime temperatures for the next few days will hover around the mid-minus 20s but the wind chill will make it feel more like –40 to –45. The extreme cold warning might be lifted at times during the day but is expected to return in the evenings.

In the north, the wind chill will make the temperature feel more like –50. It's unlikely the warning will be lifted there.

Environment Canada urges everyone to cover up as frostbite can develop within minutes on exposed skin.

"Extreme cold puts everyone at risk," the weather agency said.

That has prompted the Sunrise School Division, which stretches from east of Winnipeg into the eastern cottage country, to cancel classes at several schools for Friday.

Those include:

  • Centennial School.
  • Lac du Bonnet Senior School.
  • New Directions.
  • Whitemouth School.
  • École Powerview School.
  • Empower (adult learning program in Powerview-Pine Falls).

That cold air will remain anchored over the northern region through the weekend and into next week, Environment Canada said.

In the south, some cloud will bring a bit of relief Sunday and Monday with temperatures easing up slightly to –20 C or even the minus teens farther west.

But that's short-lived. The cold is back by the middle of the week with Winnipeg's forecast calling for highs of –26 C to –29 C.

The normal daytime high in Winnipeg for this time of year is –12 C with an overnight low of –23 C.

Busy nights at city shelters

The extreme cold weather means more people are using Winnipeg's shelters and drop-in centres.

Last night, the Salvation Army made room for nearly 30 extra people. That's on top of the 40 emergency beds the charity provides to homeless people every night. 

Maj. Rob Kerr, spokesperson for the Salvation Army in Manitoba, said it's their policy to never turn people away when temperatures plunge this much.

"If someone's coming to us and needs a place to stay when it's this cold, we bring them in. So we added an additional 27 spaces last night for people that we put in beds in other parts of our building as we were able to," he said.

"It's not crowded. We don't have people jammed in spaces anywhere. We're still able to give them dignity and allow them to have a space to stay where they're going to be comfortable and safe for the night."

There are people on the streets and they don't want to go somewhere safe and it's very dangerous for them and we we worry about them.- Maj. Rob Kerr, Salvation Army

As well, the charity's emergency response vehicle was patrolling for anyone else who might need help but couldn't get to the shelter on their own.

The staff spoke with 43 vulnerable people, who all declined the offer to go to the shelter, Kerr said, noting staff will also hand out warm clothing for those who need it.

"There are people on the streets and they don't want to go somewhere safe and it's very dangerous for them and we worry about them," he said, adding the shelter is in need of donations of winter coats, particularly for men, as well as hats, mitts, scarves, sweaters and socks.

"Of course, everybody thinks that they can take care of themselves and they think they can survive until that time that they can't."

Over at Siloam Mission, the 110-bed shelter was once again full to capacity Thursday night, spokesperson Luke Thiessen said.

"And on nights like last night, we always have to redirect people on our waiting list elsewhere."

The city's shelters are working together "doing everything we can," said Kerr.

"I think we all agree that we want to see everybody inside. Having one person on the street at night is one person too many."

Tips from CAA

The experts on dealing with vehicles during the cold — and rescuing people whose vehicles won't start — have a few tips to share.

CAA Manitoba urges drivers to pack an emergency kit to keep in their cars, stocked with things like mittens, tuques, blankets, a shovel, kitty litter or gravel (for traction if you get stuck), and food and water.

Also, always keep your gas tank at least half full to prevent gas line freeze-up, said spokeswoman Erika Miller.

Manitoba's extreme temperatures mean vehicle batteries only last three to five years, says CAA. (Radio-Canada)

If you don't park your vehicle in a sheltered area, like a garage or parkade, be sure to plug it in for at least three hours before driving anywhere. That will let the block heater warm up the engine, which creates less wear and tear when starting it in cold weather.

It will also keep the vehicle's battery from freezing. Anyone concerned about the strength of their battery is advised to call CAA before the deep cold hits.

"We can come out and test your battery for you. It only takes about five minutes — we can do it on the spot," Miller said. "And we can replace your battery right there if you need it."

It's better to know if your battery has enough juice to get going than to find out in a deep freeze that it wasn't ready for the cold weather.

"Some people think their battery is in great shape but in Manitoba, a battery lasts on average three to five years," Miller said.

"That's because we see very hot summers and then very cold weather in winter [extremes that put a strain on the battery strength]."

4 warning signs your battery is weak:

  • Vehicle cranks slowly when trying to start.
  • There's a grinding, clicking or buzzing noise when you turn on the ignition.
  • Vehicle has stalled.
  • Headlights dim when you are idling but brighten when you rev the engine.


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