'Dangerous territory': Western Canada sees extreme cold reaching -56 C

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VANCOUVER -- A rush of Arctic air is bringing extreme cold temperatures in parts of Western Canada.

Environment and Climate Change Canada on Monday morning issued extreme cold warnings for the entire province of Alberta, as well as parts of B.C. and Saskatchewan.

In Edmonton, temperatures dropped to -41.6 C on Monday morning, feeling like -55 C with the wind chill. Calgary also saw temperatures as cold as -31 C, or -43 C with the wind chill.

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Record-low temperatures were recorded in 43 communities across Alberta and B.C. between Sunday and Monday. The coldest community was Grande Prairie, Alta., which saw temperatures plummet to -44.4 C, beating the record set in 1984. That's -56 C with the wind chill.

"This area of really cold air originated from Siberia last week. It came across Alaska and is now really settled in all over the West," said weather expert Chris St. Clair in an interview with CTV News Channel.

At these temperatures, Environment and Climate Change Canada says frostbite can develop within minutes on exposed skin.

"That's really dangerous territory for many of these urban and rural areas to be in," said St. Clair, who was a presenter on The Weather Network.

Even in B.C.'s lower mainland and Vancouver Island, which typically experiences milder winters, temperatures have been far colder than seasonal. It got as cold as -14.5 C in Vancouver on Monday morning, or -23 C with the wind chill. In Victoria, the mercury dropped to -8.7 C, the coldest recorded temperature in the city since record-keeping began in 1874.

St. Clair says these temperatures are highly unusual for the region.

"Some of these temperatures are once-in-a-lifetime temperatures, particularly southern B.C.," he said. This can be dangerous because when you look at Vancouver and the (Fraser) Valley, you're just not accustomed to several days where the temperature is -9 C, -10 C, -11 C."

Some relief for B.C. and Alberta is in store by the end of the week. Vancouver will see a high of 0 C on Thursday. On Saturday, temperatures will rise to -7 C and 1 C in Edmonton and Calgary, respectively.

"The bad news is if you're in Saskatchewan or Manitoba, this brand of cold air is headed your way," St. Clair said.

Temperatures are expected to plummet down to -37 C in Regina and -38 C in Saskatoon on Wednesday night. Winnipeg will also see a low of -34 C on Thursday night.

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People bundled up for the cold weather are silhouetted while walking on the Iona Jetty at Iona Beach Regional Park, in Richmond, B.C., on Sunday, December 26, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

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