Polar vortex brings record-breaking deep freeze to the Prairies

As expected, the frigid temperatures across the Prairies this past week were only a prelude to the worst that this particular visit from the polar vortex had to offer.

Temperatures across southeastern Alberta, southern Saskatchewan and southern Manitoba plummeted towards -40 C overnight last night, breaking several records in the process.

In Saskatchewan, where the frigid core of this cold snap settled in, Regina's morning low reached all the way down to -38.4 C, breaking a 42 year old record of -37.2 C, set back on March 1, 1972. Communities like Kindersley, Moose Jaw, North Battleford and Yorkton joined in the record-breaking, although most of their records only go back a few years. The morning low in Swift Current apparently broke the longest-standing record, though, of -33.9 C set way back in 1962. Rosetown absolutely shattered its previous record (-32.4 C), as it reached the coldest temperature in the province at -41 C.

Saskatoon, even in the midst of all that record-breaking cold, only managed to get down to -37 C, just shy of breaking its 1962 record of -37.8 C.

No records were apparently set in southern Manitoba this morning, but temperatures still dropped to around -36 C in Winnipeg, Brandon and Dauphin, and wind chills got down to -50 C or below.

Wind chills this morning were even more extreme. Winds were light, only blowing at around 20 kilometres per hour, but that was more than enough to generate wind chills around -50 C from Coronation and Lloydminster in Alberta, all the way to Winnipeg, Man. In some communities it felt even colder. Regina had a wind chill of -52 C this morning (apparently breaking a record from March 1972), while Moose Jaw and Yorkton saw -51 C. Rosetown was again the 'winner' as it recorded a wind chill of -54 C at 7 a.m. Central Time.

[ More Geekquinox: It’s official: ‘Misery Index’ confirms this has been one of the worst winters ever ]

AP Photo/The Niagara Gazette, James NeissThis winter is stacking up to be one of the worst that many communities in Canada and the United States have ever seen. The U.S. National Weather Service's new Accumulated Winter Season Severity Index, or AWSSI, has been tallying up just how bad it's been at various cities south of the border. We don't have anything like that for Canada, but it would be interesting to see what the results would be if we did.

As for the rest of this weekend, it's going to be another frigid night across the Prairies tonight, but Alberta can look forward to things warming up a bit for Sunday and into the new work week. The core of this cold is going to migrate to the east, pushing over southern Manitoba and northwestern Ontario. It will then hit northern Quebec and Labrador, mostly sparing the rest of the country. Wind chill warnings are in effect for today and tomorrow.

(Photo courtesy Reuters)

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