Arctic air blasts Manitoba, could bring coldest Christmas since 1996 to Winnipeg

The forecasts are in and it looks like Winnipeg is heading for its coldest Christmas in 20 years — and conditions don't look particularly warm for the rest of Manitoba either.

Cold snap to begin Christmas Eve and continue through until New Year's Eve

Christmas hasn't been this cold since Dec. 25, 1996, said CBC meteorologist John Sauder. (Smit/Shutterstock)

The forecasts are in and it looks like Winnipeg is heading for its coldest Christmas in 20 years — and conditions don't look particularly warm for the rest of Manitoba either.

A blast of Arctic air sweeping through the Prairies forced Environment Canada to issue a special weather statement Thursday afternoon.

The national weather service said highs between –10 C and –16 C are expected Friday across southern Saskatchewan and Manitoba, but temperatures will sink to around –28 C in the northern reaches of each province.

Things could then get really cold through next week, with forecast overnight lows colder than –30 C and daytime highs in the –20s.

With the windchill it could feel like –35 to –40 in southern Manitoba or –40 to –50 in the north next week, Environment Canada said.

Coldest Christmas since '96

CBC meteorologist John Sauder said this Dec. 25 in Winnipeg is projected to be the coldest since 1996, although the forecast suggests the city won't get a colder Christmas than it did that chilly year. Winnipeggers woke up to a morning temperature of –34.6 C on Dec. 25, 1996, with a daytime high of –28.5 C.

This year's Christmas isn't expected to get quite that brisk, but Sauder is forecasting a cold snap starting on Christmas Eve, with a low of –27 C and a high of –22 C.

On the big day, Sauder says you can expect a low of –29 C and a high of –24 C.

The chilly weather is forecast to continue after Christmas, with a Boxing Day low of –30 C and high of –24 C.

"Beyond that, we still have –30 lows and highs that struggle to get warmer than –23 for Wednesday and Thursday next week," Sauder said.

He said he's not expecting snow over the next week, but low temperatures will probably persist all the way up to New Year's Eve.

Extreme cold warnings on horizon

The wind chills are expected to drop low enough to bring in extreme cold warnings from Environment Canada, Sauder added.

In northern Manitoba, extreme cold warnings are called at –45, a wind chill factor that brings a freeze time for exposed skin of roughly five minutes, he said.

In the south, the warnings are called when it's –40 or colder, bringing a 10-minute freeze time for exposed skin.

Sauder expected the extreme cold warnings to be issued for the north by Saturday, and for the south by Christmas Eve.