The frigid cold snap across British Columbia — dropping temperatures down to - 40C in some parts of the province — is expected to last several days, according to Environment Canada.
Much of B.C. is under an extreme cold warning with the coldest temperatures forecast for northern and central parts of the province, including the Cariboo and cities like Prince George which faced wind chill values near -40 C on Monday.
The Interior and coastal areas are experiencing temperatures as low as -20 C and below with the windchill.
With an Arctic outflow warning in effect, winds of of 40 to 60 km/h and gusts as high as 80 km/h were forecast Monday for mainland inlets and valleys.
"We're at about the time of year that it's the coldest usually," said Doug Lundquist, a meteorologist with Environment Canada based in Kelowna.
"Jan. 15 is usually the coldest day of the year and we've got an Arctic outbreak [right now], air coming down from the Yukon and Northwest Territories."
The prolonged period of frigid temperatures is expected to last several days.
"It's temporary, only two or three days and then we'll start to warm up — or maybe, we should say, less cold rather than warming up," he said.
Temperatures are expected to slowly rise several decrees over the next few days and be more mild by the weekend, Lundquist predicted.
Until then, frostbite and hypothermia pose a real health risk.
Dan Veller, owner of Fraser Plumbing and Heating in Prince George, says having a backup heating system during cold snaps like this week is crucial in case anything breaks.
"We get a tremendous amount of calls [about heating problems in homes] — depending on the weather, as many as 60 to 100 calls a day," Veller said.
"Hopefully, people's heating systems are well-maintained but if they are not, they should have some sort of a backup system in place like an electric heater."
Environment Canada is warning British Columbians to keep pets indoors and to cover up with adequate warm clothing before venturing out.