The coldest stretch of winter thus far is about to hit Southern Manitoba. Environment Canada has issued Extreme Cold Warnings for essentially the entire province as overnight lows across the region dive to -34 degrees, with a wind chill of -52.
Natalie Hasell with Environment Canada explains a cold front is passing through, with winds blowing cold air from the north, and with very few clouds expected in the sky tonight, Hasell says the temperature will plummet.
Hasell says -34 degrees is still a far cry from the record low temperatures this time of year for southern Manitoba. For example, the coldest January 28th on record was -41.7 back in 1966.
"We are not going to be breaking a temperature record," she assures.
But, there is no guarantee that wind chill records won't at least be threatened this week. Hasell points out the coldest wind chill ever recorded for the Red River Valley was -57 on February 1, 1996. The coldest wind chill for January 28th was in 1966 when it reached -56.
Hasell urges Manitobans to be extra careful when leaving your house in these conditions. She says with a wind chill of -48, exposed skin can freeze in five minutes, while a wind chill of -54 can see exposed skin freeze in only two minutes.
"Two minutes is not long, most elevator rides take longer than that," she says. "Most times when you are out waiting for someone to come pick you up takes longer than that."
Hasell suggests people dress properly for these conditions, which means having a windproof outer layer and windproof footwear. She also encourages watching for signs of frostbite. Hasell says frostbite typically starts with painful tingling and then as the skin begins to freeze it turns into a yellow or white waxy colour. The tingling sensation becomes a numbness and at that point, it is important to get indoors.
If you are experiencing frostbite, Hasell says you should not rub or massage the skin as that can be harmful. Also, don't put that skin under a heat lamp or hot water. If swelling or blisters begin to form, Hasell says you have a serious case of frostbite and should seek medical help.
According to Hasell, the human body produces heat. If you are in a space where there is no wind, the air around you will heat up because of your body. However, if it is cold, it takes a lot of heat to warm up the air around you. And if it is windy, that layer of warm air is pushed aside. The result is that your body keeps losing heat as the air is blown away.
Hasell says these frigid conditions will stick around southern Manitoba for a few days. There should be relief by Friday when the daytime high is -12 degrees. The normal high this time of year is -11.