Brutal, bone-chilling cold gripping the Prairie provinces

Bundle up! It's cold out there!

Another blast of frigid Arctic air has descended on the Prairies this week, denying any relief from the brutal winter that residents have been enduring so far.

It's been cold right across Canada this week, with even B.C.'s South Coast (famous for its mild winters) dipping into the negative temperatures. Though it seems like no region — not even some parts of the country much further north — has been suffering through this winter like the residents of the southern prairies. Regina and Winnipeg had -30 C wind chills when they reached their high temperatures for the past 24 hours (-19 C, just after midnight in Regina and around 9 am in Winnipeg), and their low from yesterday morning got down to -29 C and -40 wind chill! Red Deer, Alberta, was even colder when they reached their high yesterday afternoon, getting up to only -24 C and -31 C wind chill and suffering through lows of -33 C and -42 C wind chill the past two days! Ontario and Quebec have had a few brief encounters with morning wind chills down into the -30s which is very cold for those regions — but nothing as drastic as the cold that has gripped the prairies.

This morning, it's more of the same through the Prairies and it seems that southeastern Alberta is taking the brunt. The flow of frigid air through areas east and southeast of Calgary dropped wind chills down to around -45 C overnight. At that extreme level of cold, exposed skin can freeze solid in as little as five minutes.

Compare this to early February in 2013 and 2012, when temperatures were a positively spring-like -5 C and wind chills were only around -15 C, and it's quite the difference.

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Unfortunately, anyone in the prairies hoping for some relief from this punishing winter is going to be disappointed. This particular cold snap is going to be sticking around for at least the next week, and probably longer. It might be a good time to ask Winnipeg Willow exactly when the prediction of an 'early' spring will settle in.

All this cold is due to ... well, you may have guessed it ... the polar vortex. The jet stream, which is the lower edge of the vortex, has dipped down far to the south, reaching almost all the way to Mexico. It's done that a few times already this winter, but unlike before — when this dip had a corresponding spike that brought some nice, warm weather to B.C., Alberta and even up into the Yukon — this time it's pulling cold air down over the entire western half of the continent. With such a wide-spanning mass of cold air blanketing the country, and the polar vortex's rather lazy behaviour this season, it's going to take a while for it to move on and let some warmer weather back in.

(Photo courtesy: The Canadian Press)

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