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Extreme cold breaks records in central Alberta

Call 2-1-1 to contact Red Deer’s Social Diversion Team
Several cold temperature records were broken in central Alberta early in the morning on Dec. 20, 2022. (File photo by BLACK PRESS)

Even frosty needed an extra pair of mittens the last few days in Central Alberta.

A number of communities in the region set new temperature records Tuesday, including Red Deer, which hit -38.7 C, topping its 32-year-old record of -36.8 C, set in 1990.

The Rocky Mountain House area exceeded its old record of -41.1 C set in 1921 when it sunk to -41.8 C.

The Lacombe area beat its record of -38.5 C set in 1990 when it dropped to -38.6 C.

The Three Hills area beat its record of -36.1 C set in 1921 when it reached -37.1 C.

The Sundre area blew past its record of -39 C set in 2008 when it fell to -43 C. The area also beat its record of -39 C set in 2008 on Monday night when it hit -43 C.


Extreme cold will hang around for the next few days in central Alberta

Environment and Climate Change Canada says many daily minimum temperature records were broken on Dec. 20 and 21 due to an arctic air mass that has settled over Western Canada.

As of Wednesday afternoon, no more records were broken in central Alberta, but the temperature was forecast to sink to -39 C in Red Deer on Wednesday night, with a wind chill of -49 C overnight.

As the extreme cold warning continues, Red Deerians are encouraged to call 2-1-1 to reach Red Deer’s Social Diversion Team when they see someone outside in the cold in need of non-emergency assistance.


“This past weekend was quite busy with calls, the same with the last couple of days,” said Stephanie MacDonald, outreach and housing services manager with Safe Harbour Society who manages the Social Diversion Team.

“(The team) had a call on Monday morning that someone was sleeping outside in a sleeping bag.”

She said the team warmed up his boots in their vehicle and provided transportation to the service he required.

The team also drives throughout the city on the lookout for people in distress, like someone who is not dressed appropriately for the cold. The team also responds to calls to the non-emergency RCMP line.

On Tuesday night there were 162 people staying warm inside Safe Harbour’s shelter which is probably the most ever at the shelter, and about 130 people on Monday night, she said.


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The team, made up of a licenced practical nurse and a social diversion worker, began as a pilot project in 2021.

MacDonald said last year, the team responded to 1,958 events, of which 41 per cent resulted in the person being taken to a shelter, the person’s own home, the hospital or another agency.

“The leading factor for social diversion events across 2021 was homelessness, followed by intoxication, mental health and inclement weather.”

She said the team, which takes a lot of pressure off RCMP and Red Deer Emergency Services, is available to respond seven days a week, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. When the team is not working, 211 is still available to refer people to the most appropriate agency.

Call 2-1-1 and then press 2 to access the Red Deer Social Diversion Team for non-emergency support for people in distress.

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