Extreme chills across central Canada mean hazardous weather for US Southeast

Canadians from Saskatchewan to Quebec are being greeted with bitterly cold weather this morning, but this blast of cold from the polar vortex is bringing a rare winter storm to the US Southeast.

Today is already the third day in a row of bitter cold and biting wind chills for the Prairie Provinces, as temperatures across Saskatchewan and Manitoba have been hovering around -30°C since Sunday. At that level of cold, even the light winds blowing through the area have been making it feel more like -40 or even lower. The cold-spot for this morning was definitely in northern Manitoba, but even Winnipeg and Brandon reached -45 wind chills over the past day — cold enough to freeze exposed skin in as little as five minutes!

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This same frigid cold has been impacting Ontario and Quebec as well, dropping temperatures into the -20s Celsius each morning. Just like further west, even the light winds accompanying this Arctic air have been enough to drive wind chills down into the -30s. Temperatures have been able to climb up into the negative single-digits over the past few afternoons, but there won't be much relief from the cold today. Highs for today are still in the minus teens, and the extreme wind chills are expected to return tonight and into Wednesday morning.

The wind chill warnings in effect across Saskatchewan have been called off as conditions pull back from the extreme. Warnings still persist through Manitoba, northern Ontario and southwestern Ontario today, though, and Hamilton and Toronto remain under extreme cold weather alerts, expanding shelter services to keep the cities' homeless safe.

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We may be fairly used to this kind of Arctic blast here in Canada, whether it's due to a weakened polar vortex or not, but far to the south, this chilly weather is visiting a winter storm onto the US Southeast. The US National Weather Service has painted a swath of winter storm warnings from just east of Galveston, Texas all the way through to Norfolk, Virginia. Freezing rain, sleet and snow are in the forecast, and snowfall amounts could reach up to 10 centimetres or more in some areas — a significant dumping for regions that typically just see rain at this time of year.

One of the unusual parts of all this cold weather is that regions far to the north, like on Baffin Island and in the Yukon Territory are actually warmer than what we're seeing in the southern Prairie Provinces and around the Great Lakes. This latest swipe of the weakened polar vortex is expected to pick up and move on after Wednesday, though. This promises to return the country's weather conditions to something more 'normal' for late January/early February, for a short while at least.

(Photo courtesy: The Canadian Press)

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