After weekend reprieve, extreme cold warning returns for most of Alberta

After freezing temperatures rose briefly into the single digits this past weekend in the Edmonton region, the province has once again been plunged back into an extreme cold warning.

The extreme cold warning issued by Environment Canada early Tuesday is in effect for all of Alberta except for the Rocky Mountains to the west.

The national weather agency said that for the southern half of the province, conditions will moderate slightly during the day but overnight wind chill values will be near -40 until later in the week.

But north of Edmonton, prolonged extreme cold wind chill values between -40 and -50 will continue until the coming weekend.

Read more: What warrants an extreme cold warning in Canada? Depends where you are

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Extreme cold warnings are issued when very cold temperatures or the wind chill create an elevated risk to health such as frostbite and hypothermia.

Frostbite can develop within minutes on exposed skin, especially with these kinds of wind chill values, Environment Canada said.

Risks are greater for young children, older adults, people with chronic illnesses, people working or exercising outdoors, and those without proper shelter.

And if it’s too cold for you to stay outside, it’s too cold for your pet to stay outside.

Read more: Extreme cold snap set to descend upon Edmonton region starting Christmas weekend

Preparing to drive during the extreme cold

The Alberta Motor Association says during extreme cold events, it receives requests for roadside assistance every 40 seconds and calls about dead batteries can spike by six times the usual number.

The AMA has these tips to prepare for the cold weather:

  • Prior to driving, plug in your vehicle for three to four hours when the outdoor temperature is -15 C or below
  • Winter tires will give you much better traction on snow and ice, helping you stop sooner and maintain more control
  • Ensure your tires are properly inflated. Most tires lose one pound per square inch for every 5 C drop in temperature
  • Consider switching to synthetic oil for the winter months. It’ll reduce the wear and tear on your engine and help it turn over in frigid temperatures
  • Ensure your gas tank is at least half full and consider using gas-line antifreeze if your vehicle frequently moves from warm to cold environments (e.g. a heated garage to outdoor parking lot)
  • Carry an emergency roadside kit and jumper cables. The kit should include things like a blanket, warm clothing, caution triangles, a flashlight, gloves, and a folding shovel. Hand sanitizer and a face mask are also good to include during the pandemic

As harsh winter temperatures settle in for the season, paying attention to the health of your vehicle battery is important and reduces the risk of it failing.

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Signs of a weak battery include:

  • Headlights dim while idling
  • Frequent boosts/not holding a charge
  • Vehicle slow to turn over
  • Engine cranks but doesn’t start

Read more: Too many Albertans are not preparing their vehicles for winter: AMA survey

Cold safety tips for those who work outdoors

While some people can hunker down and get through the cold snap from the comfort of their own home or office, some workers have no choice but to brave the elements.

Extreme cold is a workplace hazard and on Thursday, the Alberta government reminded employers they need to take steps to help their employees avoid risks such as severe cold stress and hypothermia.

“Cold weather is a fact of life in Alberta and can affect workplace health and safety. I encourage employers and workers to work together to minimize the risks of cold temperatures so that everyone can return home safely at the end of the shift,” said Labour and Immigration Minister Tyler Shandro.

What employers can do:

  • Add a heater or heated shelter to the work site
  • Implement a work/warm-up schedule
  • Shield workers from drafts or wind as much as possible
  • Allow workers extra breaks if needed
  • Educate workers on the hazards of working in the cold and put controls in place to protect them
  • Implement a buddy system so no one works alone

How to stay warm:

  • Use layered or insulated clothing
  • Cover exposed skin
  • Take breaks inside
  • Keep footwear dry
  • Keep moving to generate body heat but avoid sweating

Early warning signs of cold stress:

  • Feeling cold and shivering
  • Having trouble moving fingers, hands and toes, loss of feeling or tingling
  • Frost nip, when the top layers of skin turn white
  • Irritability, confusion or loss of coordination
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Extreme cold hazards: wind chill, frostbite and hypothermia – Feb 5, 2019

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