Polar vortex moving on, but deep freeze persists across much of Canada

The polar vortex may be saying its goodbyes today, but for many Canadians, the bitter deep freeze isn't going anywhere just yet.

Southern Ontario is starting to see some relief today after enduring some severe cold and wind chills from the polar vortex over the past few days. Temperatures in the -20s Celsius and wind chills down near -40 shattered records, in some cases going as far back as the 1800s. Adding to the chills, blizzard conditions sweeping off of Lake Huron on Tuesday caused whiteouts that shut down roadways north of London and Barrie, stranding many drivers. Temperatures are improving today, with wind chills only in the -20s — however that's still well below normal for this time of year.

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Quebec and the Maritimes were spared the full brunt of the vortex, it seems, mostly from having a bit of luck with their winds. While the winds streaming into southwestern Ontario were coming from around Illinois and Indiana — where the cold is being blamed for several deaths and was even extreme enough to drive the Chicago zoo's polar bear indoors to stay warm — the gusts blowing into Quebec and the Maritimes were from a slightly warmer air mass over the southeast that was keeping the worst of the cold at bay. They didn't escape the chills entirely though, as wind chill values still dipped down into the -20s across much of the east, and even near -30 C at times.

In the prairies, though, the deep freeze is still holding on with both hands. After enduring the worst cold of this deep freeze — on Sunday, temperatures in Winnipeg got up to a daily high of -30 C and plunged down to -36 C that night, with wind chills of -51 C — intense cold being dragged down from the north behind the vortex is still blanketing the area. Temperatures are still hovering near -30 C this morning, with wind chills down to -40 or lower in parts of southern Saskatchewan and Manitoba as well. Although no weather warnings are in effect for these regions, those kinds of extreme conditions can freeze exposed skin in as little as 5 minutes!

Compared to the rest of the country, B.C. and Alberta are enjoying much more seasonal weather. There's still a chill in the air for Alberta this morning, but temperatures are expected to climb up near zero or higher this afternoon. In British Columbia, communities in the mountain valleys are experiencing some mild and possibly snowy weather today, and the coast is seeing rainy and mild weather.

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With all this frigid cold, it may seem like we're in this for the long-haul, but relief is on the way. Conditions are improving across the country heading into the weekend, even for the prairie provinces.

(Photo courtesy CBC)

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