Winnipeg deep freeze as cold as uninhabited planet

In terms of astonishing weather facts, it doesn't get much more impressive than being as cold as a distant planet for a day.

Manitoba Museum reports Winnipeg's temperature as cold as surface of Mars

Parts of Manitoba hit -53 C, colder than Mars

10 years ago
Duration 2:28
U.S. airline stops flights due to cold weather

In terms of astonishing weather facts, it doesn't get much more impressive than being as cold as a distant planet for a day.

Grounded planes

It's so cold that one airline has decided not to fly in or out of Winnipeg.

ExpressJet, a partner of United Airlines, cancelled some flights Monday night and Tuesday morning.

Passengers are being moved onto flights operated by other airlines and rerouted through other cities. ExpressJet says the unique combination of extreme low temperatures and ice crystals exceed safe operating guidelines for their aircraft.

A spokesperson told CBC News there will be more cancellations as long as the forecast stays the same citing safety as the number one priority.

The aircraft ExpressJet flies are smaller commuter planes that carry 35-70 passengers. 

However, other airlines operate the same type of planes and are flying as usual.

Happy for delay

Allison Schmidt, who teaches in Japan, was set to fly to Chicago and then Tokyo but her flight has been delayed for at least a day.

And the Winnipegger who was visiting family for Christmas couldn’t be happier about it.

“I had booked this flight because it was about $300 or $400 cheaper [to leave before the New Year]. I thought it was worth it for just one night,” she said.

“But I was really regretting it this morning, saying goodbye. I felt like the nine days just went by far too quickly.

“So now I get to spend New Year's with my family [and] January 1st is actually my mom's birthday.”

The Winnipeg Airports Authority says other than United, the cold weather hasn't impacted operations at Richardson International.

The Manitoba Museum is reporting Winnipeg's temperatures on Tuesday were actually as cold as the surface of Mars.

According to the Curiosity Rover, Mars reached a maximum temperature of -29 C on Tuesday, a temperature Winnipeg only reached shortly before 3 p.m. 

The deep freeze over much of Southern Manitoba prompted extreme wind chill warnings in the area and most of the north.

In Winnipeg, the daytime high temperature for Tuesday was only expected to reach –31 C, but the windchill made it feel more like –40 to –50. That means exposed skin can freeze in less than five minutes.

On Monday, it got as warm as –28 C.

In the northern half of the province, in places like Thompson, Nelson House, Lynn Lake, Leaf Rapids and Churchill, the wind chills on Tuesday made it feel like 48 to 53.

The entire province was under an extreme wind chill warning on Monday, but it was later lifted in the central portion of Manitoba as well as the southwest and southeast corners.

Some outdoor New Year's Eve activities cancelled

While many of the outdoor New Year’s Eve activities planned at The Forks will go on as planned tonight, at least one has been cancelled.

“The only thing we’ve had to cancel is the horse-drawn wagon rides, scheduled from 5 p.m. until 9 p.m. It’s just too cold for that,” said Clare MacKay of The Forks. “Everything else we’ve been able to proceed with, and we have a lot of stuff that happens inside.”

The Forks is hosting crafts for kids, a number of bands and fireworks at 10 p.m. Festivities begin at 5 p.m.

Newcomer not dissuaded by cold

A 16-year-old girl from Nigeria hasn’t been dissuaded by Winnipeg’s other-worldly cold. Lynda Okeke-Okoli arrived in Winnipeg just 48 hours ago to attend high school here.

It wasn’t exactly a warm welcome for the teen, with temperatures hovering below -30 C.

“I was just like, ‘God help me!’ I said, ‘God, please help me. I don’t know how I’m going to handle this!’” she said.

She said even advice from her dad hadn’t prepared her for the weather. Despite that, plans to stick out in Winnipeg.

Cold, but not the coldest

It's cold but not enough for a record.

The historical mark for this day in history is a rattling –37.8 C, set in 1967.

Environment Canada meteorologist Dale Marciski said the coldest December on record for Winnipeg was set in 1879, with an average temperature of 26 C.

This December’s average temperature so far is close to –21 C. That is only about the fifth coldest ever.

The three coldest Decembers for Winnipeg are:

  • 1879: –26.0 C
  • 1872: –22.6​ C
  • 2000: –22.0 C​
  • 1876: 21.8
  • 1893: 21.4

Finding the homeless

​​A downtown organization is trying to find those Winnipeggers who have no place to go, and get them out of the frigid cold.

The Downtown Biz' has volunteers on foot and in vehicles picking up people who need shelter.

“We have come across individuals, for example, who have been passed out in back lanes who have consumed too much and it has been as cold as 40 C," said Brendan Malaky, who is with the Biz's Downtown Watch program.

"In some instances, we haven't been able to wake them up, in which case we call 911 immediately.”

Malaky said they won't force someone inside but strongly encourage people to go to a nearby shelter.

“First thing we do is assess and make sure that they're alright, make sure their condition is good, make sure they've got appropriate clothing for the weather," he said.

"We're going to get them whatever they're missing and see if we can get them somewhere to stay for the night.”

The watch program has 200 volunteers and up to 35 staff members working seven days a week.

Operation Red Nose

Even though it's bitterly cold, it's business as usual for Operation Red Nose tonight.

Over the weekend, the service shut down because of the extreme cold but coordinator Sharra Hinton said volunteers will be out in full force tonight, offering free rides for New Year’s Eve revelers --- even if the cold means a few delays.

“It is going to be cold and a lot of vehicles are going to be sitting for quite awhile before they start again so I'm hoping that everything will go OK,” she said.

Hinton says calls from 9 p.m. to midnight are answered pretty quickly but things get slower when the calls start pouring in after the ball drops and the New Year arrives.

“People are probably looking at closer to an hour, maybe an hour and a half wait with us,” she said.