Contractor Nick Burnett, of Red Deer, was working to frame a house on a cold Monday in Timberlands. (Photo by SUSAN ZIELINSKI/Advocate staff)

Workers brave extreme cold in Red Deer

Some relief on the way by Wednesday

Outdoor workers are still on the job in Red Deer, despite lingering Arctic temperatures and windchill.

An extreme cold warning has been in effect for much of central Alberta since Feb. 2.

Barbara Lilly, president of Local 818 of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, said letter carriers are walking shorter distances before heading back to their vehicles because of the cold, so it is taking a little longer to deliver the mail.

“We’re just asking the public to be patient with us during this cold snap. Our focus right now is that they get back safe,” Lilly said Monday.

“I know that Ontario and Saskatchewan carriers were given the option to not deliver on certain days, which is good. We haven’t reached that point in Red Deer yet.”

She said management has been distributing hand warmers to carriers and new employees are checked on while doing their routes to make sure they have everything they need to stay warm.

“It’s been a different kind of winter this year. It started out really mild, and suddenly, the cold snap hit. We were in a freeze/thaw for a while. A lot of temporary carriers don’t know how to dress,” Lilly said.

Troy Walker, construction manager with Laebon Homes, said framers are staying on the job, but may be taking more breaks to warm up.

“It’s the physical labour outside that you need. Most of those jobs haven’t changed over the years. It would be nice if we could put a big tent over everything, but that’s not really feasible,” Walker said.

“You have to love your work to go out and work in this weather. We’re fortunate. We have a lot of guys who are passionate about their work and that’s why we can keep doing it in these cold and harsh times.”

He said some phases of construction can’t be done in the extreme cold, such as excavation, pouring concrete foundations, or roofing or siding.

“We don’t always get to pick and choose when someone decides they’re going to purchase a home. But we also factor that into our timelines. There are going to be holdups, times when it’s raining a lot or really cold,” Walker said.

Kyle Fougere, meteorologist with Environment and Climate Change Canada, said temperatures will warm up a little this week, but it will still be well below average.

On Wednesday, the high could reach about -16 C and continue for the rest of the week, with overnight lows about -22 C.

“Once you get entrenched into this cold, Arctic air, it can be really hard to get out of. We don’t have a westerly wind to push this cold air out and bring in some warmer air. We’re kind of stuck with this cold Arctic air mass at least for the rest of this week,” Fougere said.

Red Deer’s coldest morning was Feb. 5 when it sunk to -35.1. The average temperatures for Red Deer are a high of -3 and a low of -15.

He said that next week, the daytime highs will be in the low minus teens, which is still well below normal.

“We still have an extreme cold warning in effect … we tend to put out when there’s a chance for either the temperature or with windchill values to approach -40 C. I expect that will stay until Wednesday morning,” Fougere said.

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Contractor Nick Burnett, of Red Deer, was working to frame a house on a cold Monday in Timberlands. (Photo by SUSAN ZIELINSKI/Advocate staff)

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