Protecting people, pets in extreme cold weather

·4 min read
A bus travels via the Broadway Bridge on South Saskatchewan River during an extreme cold warning in Saskatoon on Dec. 30, 2021. (Heywood Yu/The Canadian Press - image credit)
A bus travels via the Broadway Bridge on South Saskatchewan River during an extreme cold warning in Saskatoon on Dec. 30, 2021. (Heywood Yu/The Canadian Press - image credit)

Extreme cold temperatures continued to break records and create dangerous conditions in Saskatchewan this week.

Environment Canada reported nine communities either breaking or tying previous record lows on Jan. 6, 2022.

They were:

  • Assiniboia
    New record: –36.5 C.
    Old record: –36.0 C (1982).

  • Elbow
    New record: –38.4 C.
    Old record: –36.0 C (1991).

  • Last Mountain Lake (Sanctuary)
    New record: –42.0 C.
    Old record: –40.0 C (1996).

  • Leader
    New record: –39.0 C.
    Old record: –36.5 C (1991).

  • Lucky Lake
    New record: –38.3 C.
    Old record: –35.0 C (1976).

  • Meadow Lake
    New record: –41.9 C.
    Old record:–41.1 C (1966).

  • Outlook
    New record: –38.3 C.
    Old record: –34.4 C (1966).

  • Rockglen
    New record: –33.8 C.
    Old record: –31.2 C (2014).

  • Weyburn
    Tied record: –35.7 C (1999).

On Friday, temperatures warmed up enough to end severe weather warnings for most of the province, including Regina and Saskatoon.

Hypothermia: what to watch for

Anyone spending time outside in cold weather is at risk of getting hypothermia.

That happens when a person's body loses heat faster than it can produce heat, causing a dangerously low body temperature.

Eventually they're going to lose consciousness, and that's when it becomes a real problem. - Stephanie Peachey, St. John's Ambulance instructor

Stephanie Peachey, an instructor with St. John's Ambulance, said the first sign to watch for is shivering, as the body tries to warm the muscles by shaking.

If a person remains out in the cold, they will become confused and tired. They could also stop shivering — a sign the body is not regulating heat normally.

"You may see that they start to fall asleep. Eventually they're going to lose consciousness, and that's when it becomes a real problem," Peachey told Saskatoon Morning's Leisha Grebinski.

Peachey said in situations like that, people should call 911 for immediate medical attention.

Watching out for others

Rob Garrison is a supervisor at Saskatoon's Community Support Program (CPS). The CPS team patrols the city's three central business districts five days a week, all year, promoting well-being and safety. They also take calls to help.

"We get a good percentage of our calls from concerned community members, which is very encouraging, especially when it's very cold out," Garrison said.

"We ask people just to be vigilant, be observant, look for somebody who they think may be struggling or maybe not dressed for the weather, maybe not moving too quickly."

Garrison said CPS members can help people find somewhere to warm-up, and shelter for the night.

He added people can always call their local police non-emergency line if they're concerned about someone out in the cold.

"They have a list of resources or they know who to get ahold of. Or they may just respond themselves," he said.

Helping strays stay warm

Regina Cat Rescue is asking people to help out however possible if they spot a stray cat outside in the cold weather.

Alanna Whippler is the pet rescue co-chair for the organization. She told The Morning Edition's Stefani Langenegger there's been an increase in calls for help with the cold, but the rescue is over capacity.

"It's not that we won't help, but we can't take all the cats and immediately," she said.

"We need people to to help provide that care to the best extent possible, recognizing that it's not ideal, but it is the best that we can do right now."

Whippler said people can provide safety for stray cats by building insulated shelter boxes, often out of rubber totes. The rescue has instructions and information on how to do so online.

She noted people should be mindful of material if they decide to put something inside, as a wet blanket can cause more harm than good.

"Look for wicking fleece that doesn't hold moisture. Insulate shelters with hay or straw if you can get your hands on some of that," she said.

Whippler suggested people warm up any food they leave outside for stray cats, and to check under the hood of vehicles parked outside before starting the engine to make sure no stray cats have climbed in for warmth.

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