'Hazardous' frostbite levels forecast for Manitoba's extreme cold

The entire province is covered in extreme cold warnings due to a cold front moving into Manitoba later Monday that will produce wind chills that will make it feel like –53 overnight.

Entire province covered in extreme cold warnings due to new cold front

The wind chill will drop to about –53 overnight Monday and into Tuesday in Winnipeg, as well as most of the province, as a new cold front moves through. (Darren Bernhardt/CBC)

We're going to need thicker long underwear.

It's going to be so cold in Manitoba this week that Environment Canada is using the word "hazardous" to describe the risk of frostbite.

The entire province is covered in extreme cold warnings due to a cold front moving into Manitoba later Monday that will produce wind chills that will make it feel like –53 overnight followed by daytime temperatures around –30 C.

Yes, there's a new frozen front arriving.

Anyone living in or visiting the province in the past week would know it's been glacial for a week or more, but the system that's been responsible for that is now tracking off to the east, according to Environment Canada.

The entire province is coloured red for extreme cold warnings. (Environment Canada)

"In behind this system strong northerly winds will usher in another extended period of extremely frigid Arctic air," the agency states on its warning page.

"Extreme wind chill values of –45 to –55 are occurring this morning near the Nunavut border and moving south this afternoon."

Pipes freezing

The number of frozen pipes has tripled in the city over the past week: 174 Winnipeggers called to report frozen pipes on their own property, and eight on the city portion of their home water lines. 

Tim Shanks, the city's manager of municipal water services, says it's just the beginning. 

"I would expect to see more internal pipe freezes," said Shank. "And one of the things we try to do proactively is we keep a list of customers who have reported internal pipe freezes in the past and we do send out reminder letters ... to try to anticipate when the change in seasons come." 

He warned people who've been notified that their property is at risk for frozen pipes in previous years to keep using the pipes regularly and keep an eye on them. 

Coldest stretch of winter so far 

This will be the coldest stretch of the winter so far, says CBC Meteorologist John Sauder, with Tuesday being the worst. 

"I know this is the coldest three-day period of the season so far, and may turn out to be the coldest stretch we're going to see in the entire winter. It's certainly in extreme conditions," he said. 

With temperatures this cold, Sauder cautioned that frostbite can occur after just two to five minutes outside.

The good news is the forecast should return to more normal winter conditions by the weekend, Sauder said. 

The wind chill will go to about –53 as it sinks over Manitoba. At that level, exposed skin can freeze in two to five minutes.

And it doesn't matter where in the province you live. It's the same bone-rattling cold from Churchill to Winnipeg.

The widespread wind chill is expected to begin Monday evening and last through Thursday afternoon, Environment Canada said.

The daytime high in Winnipeg on Monday will be about –18 C but the wind chill will make it feel more like –34.

Once the cold front arrives, the daytime highs will hover around –30 C with wind chills around –40 to –50.

Signs you might have frostbite

If you're wondering if you might have frostbite, there are four signs. Health officials call them the four P's.

  • Pink: Skin appears reddish in colour, and this is usually the first sign.
  • Pain: Skin becomes painful.
  • Patches: White,waxy-feeling patches show when skin is dying.
  • Prickles: Affected areas feel numb.

What to do if you get frostbite

If you do notice you have frostbite, you should do the following:

  • Do not rub or massage affected areas. This can cause more damage.
  • Warm up the area slowly. Use a warm compress or your own body heat to re-warm the area but don't use a compress that it too hot. Underarms are a good place to warm frostbitten digits.
  • If toes or feet are frostbitten, try not to walk on them.
  • Seek immediate medical attention if you see white- or grey-coloured patches or if the area is numb.

Blowing snow

Along with the cold, southern Manitoba will see some windy conditions over the next few days.

North winds will gust to 50 km/h on Monday and Tuesday, which means the fresh snow that fell over the weekend is being blown around, slicking up the roads and causing poor visibility.

Blowing snow is making for poor visibility on highways around Winnipeg. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

There were already a number of crashes reported around Winnipeg and the rural areas just outside the city by mid-morning Monday.

Police are urging drivers to be cautious.


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