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Frigid air invades the Prairies

Staff writers

January 20, 2012 — An Arctic airmass has moved into the Prairies leading to a significant drop in temperatures this week. Still,relief from the frigid temperatures is in sight.

Natalie Thomas braves the cold in Alberta
Natalie Thomas braves the cold in Alberta

Arctic air from the north has been invading the Prairies for days now. And on Wednesday, record low temperatures were set in 13 communities.

The town of Hendrickson Creek, Alberta plunged to a bone-chilling -41.4C. Dozens of cities and towns dipped below the -30C mark, too.

The cold weather prompted Canada Olympic Park in Calgary to cancel lessons and close the ski area. In northern Manitoba, temperatures were cold enough to prompt at least one Via Rail train delay. Schools were closed in several parts of the Prairies, as well.

The good news is that temperatures are expected to improve later this week.

The polar vortex that has been spreading arctic air to the west is retreating back to the north, explains Gerald Cheng, a meteorologist at The Weather Network. That's why temperatures will be climbing as we ahead into the weekend.

The blast of cold, arctic air began over the weekend, after a spell of mild weather.

The Weather Network's Natalie Thomas was in Edmonton, Alberta, where wind chill values were around -30 Sunday night. She caught up with two students from southeastern China who were bundled up and trying to stay warm.

Students remain indoors at school when temperatures plunge
Students remain indoors at school when temperatures plunge

In my city in the winter, the temperature is 11+ to 16+, so I really can't stand it. This is my first winter here and I really want to go back home, said one of the students jokingly.

Even residents who live in Edmonton say they were a little caught off guard with the dramatic cool down.

I was in Arizona and I got back and it was June-uary here and now it's the next ice age. It was lovely to come back from a plus 30 place and it was still about 15, but it's really dropped in the last few days. No more wandering around in sweaters and capris.

Temperatures dipped even further Monday night with wind chill values ranging from -40 to -50 across all three Prairie provinces.

At these extreme wind chill values, it takes less than five minutes for frostbite to set in on exposed skin.

Temperatures are expected to remain frigid throughout the week and as a result, school boards are urging parents to make sure their children are dressed properly for the cold. In Edmonton, when the temperature hits -20 to -23C, recess is cancelled and students will remain inside.

Emergency shelters in Alberta say they are also prepared for the cold with no shortages of beds. If shelters begin to fill up, another facility will be found for people in need.

The system has also brought colder temperatures to parts of BC, and several places are seeing their first significant snowfall of the year.

Visit the Alerts section of our website for the up-to-date information on the conditions in your area.

Be sure to also tune into The Weather Network on TV as Natalie Thomas reports LIVE from Alberta this week.

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