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Staying safe in freezing conditions across the Prairies

Andrea Stockton, staff writer
January 17, 2012 — Temperatures have plummeted across the Prairies and officials say it's important to keep safety in mind.

Frostbite on exposed skin can occur in less than 5 minutes
Frostbite on exposed skin can occur in less than 5 minutes

Parts of the Prairies have been braving the cold as Arctic air moves over the region. Temperatures ranging from -20°C to -30°C, feeling closer to -40 and -50 with the wind chill, are making it unbearable to be outside.

The Weather Network's Natalie Thomas has been struggling to stay warm in Alberta this week and says it's crucial to limit any time spent outdoors. With extreme wind chill values, frostbite on exposed skin can occur in less than five minutes.

That's a major concern for schools trying to keep students safe throughout the day. According to Dajana Fabjanovich with Edmonton Public Schools, parents have to keep a few guidelines in mind when the temperatures take a dramatic dip.

“Students have to be dressed appropriately for the weather. Hats, toques, gloves, appropriate footwear are all necessary,” says Fabjanovich. “It's also really important for parents to arrive at bus stops a few minutes earlier and to stay with their children until the bus does arrive.”

Some schools in Edmonton cancel recess when temperatures drop below -20°C.

People should limit time sent outdoors when temperatures plunge
People should limit time sent outdoors when temperatures plunge

The cold weather has also been taking a toll on the homeless across the Prairies.

Outreach services in Edmonton say they've been working to get as many people inside, but some refuse to go to a shelter.

“There are still people who are staying outside in the park especially,” says Aidan Inglis with Boyle Street Outreach. “Their reasons may differ why they don't go to the shelters. They may have had a bad experience or they feel safer in the outdoor areas.”

Inglis adds that his team tries to engage with those who refuse to go inside and try to bring services to them in the harsh weather.

“Making sure that they're safe and they're warm. Maybe they need to get medical attention or working to get them housed...We have had a lot of experience with people losing limbs or feet just because it's too cold no matter how much you try to prevent something.”

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

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