Thunder Bay

Thunder Bay shatters cold weather records

This morning's cold temperatures in the Thunder Bay area have broken more records — and meteorologist Geoff Coulson with Environment Canada says the word broken doesn't go far enough.

Windchill makes it feel like -51 C

People in Thunder Bay should use caution when heading outdoors on Sunday. According to Environment Canada, exposed skin can freeze is less than five minutes. (Adam Burns/CBC)

This morning's cold temperatures in the Thunder Bay area have broken more records — and meteorologist Geoff Coulson with Environment Canada says the word broken doesn't go far enough.

"Shattered is probably a better word," he said. "[The] previous coldest temp recorded on Dec. 31 in the Thunder Bay area -33.3 C recorded both in 1946 and in 1967. Wake up temperature this morning in tbay was a very bitter -38.8 C."

When the windchill hit -51 C, a new record for windchill was set for the whole month of December, Coulson added. The previous record was set in 1967 with a windchill of -49 C.

Coulson says the weekend might bring a bit of a break from the bitter cold, but temperatures are expected to drop again going into next week.

On days where the temperature drops to extremes, Keith Humphrys bundles up to work the drive-thru window at a local doughnut shop. (Adam Burns/CBC)

At a local doughnut shop, workers bundle up to work the drive-thru window.

Keith Humphrys, 27, has been working at the Robin's Donuts on May Street South for more than five years.

"You feel it in the bones. That cold will rip at you," he said.

"You're not as happy to see some people at the window, when they get their big orders."

Frostbite warnings

With bone-chilling temperatures expected to stick around into the new year, several organizations are coming forward with warnings for city residents.

The district health unit is reminding people about the risk of frostbite and hypothermia, as a windchill of –40 C means skin can freeze in about five minutes.

Signs of frostbite include skin that is pink and a feeling of “prickles,” painful areas and the appearance of grey and white skin patches, officials said.

Beware of open water

Despite the cold snap, Thunder Bay police are warning snowmobilers to avoid riding on the Kam River, as sledders who use the river may still encounter open water.

Constable Bill Pollock said he recently encountered some snowmobilers taking serious risks on the river.

"I saw about a dozen guys come off the Kam River at Stanley. So I spoke to them about ice conditions. They said it was a little bit bumpy but pretty good," he said.

"Needless to say, as I drive east along the Kam River, I found a pile of open water about 1 to 1.5 km [farther away]."

Pollock said he has found several stretches of the Kam River that were wide open, due to fast currents and snow that can prevent ice from forming.

Towing companies under pressure

The continued deep freeze has put a strain on at least one towing service in Thunder Bay.

A spokesperson for Gary's Towing said the company is being inundated with calls from stranded drivers.

“Vehicles [are] not starting, that is the big deal,” Bruce Andrew said.

“[They're] either not being plugged in or [using] improper block heaters, I'm not sure. But it's a busy day. And emission systems designed for California … don't work up here."

Andrew said the towing company has been unusually busy for the past month, and the more bitterly cold temperatures will likely keep the tow calls coming in for the foreseeable future.


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