Some braced for blizzards, others dealt with precarious flash freezes, and still more faced bone-chilling temperatures — and then there were those who endured power outages dating back to earlier bitter weather.
A mixed bag of nasty conditions led Environment Canada to issue warnings for vast swaths of the country on Monday, when many headed back to work for the first time since the holiday break.
“It’s almost like the total meteorological lexicon of everything miserable in terms of winter is found somewhere in Canada,” said senior climatologist David Phillips.
The sheer amount of varying warnings was considered somewhat unusual even by the national weather agency that put them out.
Phillips listed some of the misery.
“From wind chill to winter storm warnings to flash freezes to freezing rain to heavy rain to strong winds; snow squalls also.”
The winter wallop created extra headaches for many resuming their weekday commutes on the first Monday of 2014.
Some flights travelling into or out of Toronto, Ottawa, Halifax and St. John’s, N.L., were also cancelled or delayed. And freezing rain across Eastern Canada forced nearly 800 plane passengers to be diverted to Fredericton early Monday, putting a strain on the city’s airport.
“Nature’s making it more difficult for us to get back to a regular normal life,” said Phillips. “The timing is unfortunate.”
Southern Saskatchewan and southern Manitoba experienced some of the most bitter cold, where communities long-used to chilly conditions were lashed by frigid gusts which prompted a series of wind chill warnings.
“We’re seeing wind chills that are into the minus 50, which would freeze flesh in less than five minutes,” said Phillips, who warned residents to bundle up.
Meanwhile, communities in northern and southern Ontario were warned of flash freezes, wind chills and even snow squalls in some areas.
The latest blast of winter came just a week after a wicked ice storm left hundreds of thousands without power in parts of Central and Eastern Canada.
“In Ontario we’re seeing a whole plethora of weather warnings,” said Phillips.
“In some communities they’ve got four to choose from, it’s like pick your poison.”
Toronto and Windsor, Ont., — which were expecting wind chills from -35 C to -40 C into Tuesday — were among some communities which issued extreme cold weather alerts while urging those who were homeless to seek shelter.
It was a slightly different story in Quebec, where somewhat warmer temperatures meant Environment Canada issued rainfall and freezing rain warnings for southern parts of the province, although communities further north faced blizzard warnings.
Freezing rain left more than 24,000 Quebec customers without power on Monday afternoon, with the Mauricie region in central Quebec hit hardest.
Authorities in Ontario and Quebec urged caution on icy roads and slushy sidewalks and warned motorists to take care in communities that were expecting blowing snow and whiteout conditions.
In Atlantic Canada, freezing rain and rainfall warnings were issued for much of New Brunswick, eastern Nova Scotia, P.E.I. and parts of Newfoundland.
Those warnings added to the problems being faced by thousands in Newfoundland, who were experiencing their fourth day of power outages brought on by a combination of cold weather, a terminal station fire and a power plant that went offline.
A mass of cold Arctic air, combined with a warmer weather system that had come up from the U.S., had led to much of the recent variety of inclement conditions, said Philips.
Some communities, including Toronto, Halifax, Montreal and Quebec City, were expected to see a drastic drop in temperatures by today.
l Cattle are still chowing down as a deep freeze settles over much of the Prairies.
Agriculture experts and ranchers know that when the temperature dips below -20 C, cattle need even more to eat so they can create extra energy to stay warm.
“Most years the average hay out there is good enough to maintain a cow in wintertime, as long as she doesn’t have extra demands on her body, so she’s not heavy into pregnancy and she’s not lactating, she’s not providing milk for a calf,” Murray Feist, a ruminant nutrition specialist with Saskatchewan Agriculture, said Monday.
“Once we get into these really cold, cold days, we have to add a different form of energy into the diet. And what we’ve done is we’ve used grain to do that for us and it’s got a considerable amount more energy per pound than what you would get from a feed like a hay.”
Feist says there are other factors to consider, such as shelter from the wind.
The general rule of thumb is to feed an extra pound of grain for every five degrees below -20 C.
But getting cattle through the frigid weather is not as simple as just feeding more grain.
Ranchers also need to be careful to avoid “grain overload,” known as acute acidosis, said Feist.
“If they have to split it up into a morning and an afternoon (feeding), that can help them avoid getting into some digestive upsets by overfeeding too much grain. So yes, extra grain does help, but if you take it too far, you can cause a digestive upset,” he explained.
“So then you split the diet out so they don’t get one big belly ache.”