Winter strikes with a vengeance

When Environment Canada starts issuing warnings about the cold, you know it’s going to be bad.

Photo by RANDY FIEDLER/Advocate staff

When Environment Canada starts issuing warnings about the cold, you know it’s going to be bad.

How about -46C bad? That’s what it was to feel like last night counting windchill. The deep freeze comes courtesy of a forecast low of -35C, rendered truly diabolical by a 15 km/h wind.

The news doesn’t get any better today when a low of -35C will feel like -48C, thanks to wind chill. The high today is expected to be -24C. On Tuesday, Environment Canada issued a wind chill warning for most of the province. Warnings are issues when estimated wind chill dips below -40C.

At those temperatures, flesh can freeze within minutes, said forecaster Greg Pearce from Vancouver.

“So anybody who is out and about, they have to bundle up and keep everything warm or they will end up with frostbite fairly rapidly.”

Pearce said the culprit behind the cold shock is a strong arctic high pressure system that built up over Alaska and the Yukon over the last few days. “Of course, it then pushed down into Alberta over the weekend and it’s continuing to pump cold arctic air down from the north.

“The winds aren’t terribly strong, but they’re just strong enough at times to give these high wind chills.”

While it may seem bad in Red Deer, it could be worse. Residents of Watson Lake in the southeast corner of Yukon woke up on Tuesday morning to -48C.

Despite the cold, there’s little chance any records will be set in Red Deer over the next two days. A cold snap in 1950 was responsible for both the Jan. 17 and Jan. 18 records, when the temperature plummeted to -45C and -43.3C.

By the weekend, there should be some relief. By Saturday, the high is expected to reach -17C and by Sunday, -10C. By Monday, we’ll be into negative single digits at -7C and the temperature is forecast to climb back above 0C by Tuesday.

The recent cold snap has seen the record for electricity demand in Alberta broken twice this week already. On Monday, demand reached a record all-time high of 10,609 megawatts, breaking the 10,315 megawatt record set on Sunday. The previous high of 10,236 was set Dec. 14, 2009.

The Alberta Electric System Operator, which oversees the province’s power grid, was expecting another record-breaking performance overnight Tuesday.

In Red Deer, demand peaked at 135.7 megawatts on Monday between 5:45 p.m. and 6 p.m. That’s just short of the record set on Dec. 14, 2009 when 138.8 megawatts were used.

The city’s Electric Light and Power department suggests residents do non-essential tasks like running major appliances after 7 p.m.

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