Extreme wind chills prompt warnings in B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan


Frigid Arctic winds blowing down across Western Canada caused temperatures to plummet overnight and drove wind chills down to such an extreme low that warnings had to be issued, due to the high risk of suffering frost bite and hypothermia.

A chilly Arctic high has spread -30 degree temperatures across Alberta and Saskatchewan as it slips down from the north, but the winds are the greatest concern. Even though they aren't as extreme as the area experience during Monday's blizzard in southern Alberta, they are still strong enough to drive wind chills down into the -30s, -40s and even lower.

Overnight, most of southeastern Alberta and the southern half of Saskatchewan experienced wind chills in the -40s, with Medicine Hat right on the cusp at -40, Saskatoon reaching -43 and Regina getting down to -46. However, it was Swift Current that had it worst of all, with wind chill values steadily dropping overnight until they reached -50 just as the sun was rising.

Just with temperatures at or below -30°C, there is already a risk of mild to severe frostbite for exposed skin. However, when the winds kick up, the risk can increase dramatically. Wind chills between -40 and -47 can cause exposed skin to freeze in as little as five minutes, and extreme conditions like they had in Swift Current can freeze skin in as little as two minutes. It goes without saying, but if you need to be out in this weather, dress warmly, especially dressing in layers with a wind-resistant outer layer. Wear a hat, insulated gloves and scarf. Cover as much exposed skin as possible. One of the most important things ... stay dry. Wet clothes, including those soaked with sweat, lose all their insulating properties and put you at risk for hypothermia.

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Even with the sun shining in the sky today, to provide some meager amount of heat, warnings are still in effect as wind chills in the -40s are expected to continue through the morning. The warning regions now stretch from Peace River and Grande Prairie down through the rest of Alberta, and across southern Saskatchewan from Lloydminster to Regina, Weyburn and Estevan. It's possible that the wind chill values may abate some for the afternoon, but the extreme wind chills are expected to return tonight and into Saturday morning.

In British Columbia, this same Arctic airmass is driving chill winds through the mountain passes, and warnings have been issued in southeastern regions for wind chills down near -35 and in Fraser Valley, Howe Sound, and the Central Coast and North Coast, for arctic outflow causing wind chills in the -20s.

(Photo courtesy The Canadian Press)

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