Winter's here! Snow, frigid temps hit from coast to coast
Andrea Janus, CTVNews.ca
Published Tuesday, January 17, 2012 8:19PM EST
Canadians who spent the holidays wondering what had become of winter have got their answer: it's just a little late.
With large swaths of the Prairies under wind-chill warnings and snow falling in, of all places, Vancouver, it seems old man winter didn't fall asleep on the job after all.
Environment Canada issued wind chill warnings for much of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba on Tuesday, saying wind chill values would dip as low as -50 Celsius.
Wind chill values below -50 C are expected in the Churchill, Man., region.
The agency blamed a blast of cold Arctic air for the frigid conditions, saying temperatures without the wind chill could hit -35 C overnight. Winds blowing up to 25 km/h will send temperatures even lower.
Environment Canada warned Canadians to bundle up and dress appropriately for the extreme weather.
"At these extreme wind chill values frostbite on exposed skin may occur in less than 10 minutes," the agency warned.
In Calgary, where it was -29 C Tuesday evening, WestJet cancelled six flights because of the cold weather. The airline is struggling to keep up with all the deicing needed for its planes.
Travel advisories have also been issued for Ottawa, Montreal and Halifax by the airline.
Meanwhile, snow has been falling in the Greater Vancouver area off-and-on since Friday night.
Vancouver residents enjoyed a weekend of skiing and tobogganing after a Friday night snowfall, but were caught off guard by a storm that rolled through the region on Monday.
The storm dumped at least 20 cm of snow in the eastern Vancouver area and into the Fraser Valley, where driving on Highway 1 around Langley and through to Chilliwack became extremely treacherous. Cars were sliding off the road so often that tow-truck drivers couldn't keep up with the demand for their services.
Eventually, RCMP were forced to ask tow trucks to stay off the road entirely until plows could clear some of the snow.
"It got so bad the RCMP were telling people to stay off the highway unless you really have to," CTV British Columbia's Brent Shearer told CTV News Channel on Tuesday morning. "And for a lot of people they are commuting in and out of the Fraser Valley so they had to come this way."
Some cars had to be left on the highway overnight, he said.
Snow continued to fall in the Eastern Fraser Valley Tuesday morning, with Environment Canada forecasting between five and 10 cm of snow through the day. Wind-chill values may also dip to -20 C or below, the agency warned.
Wind-chill warnings were also in effect for parts of central and eastern B.C., where a cold Arctic air mass is forecast to send wind-child values to as low as -40 C. The cold snap in that region is expected to last through Wednesday.
Meanwhile, winter also began taking hold in parts of central and eastern Canada, where Environment Canada issued snowfall and freezing rain warnings.
Parts of southern Ontario, including Parry Sound, Huntsville, Algonquin Park, Barry's Bay and Renfrew, were under heavy snowfall warnings, with accumulations of up to 20 cm likely by midnight Tuesday.
"Driving conditions will quickly deteriorate and become hazardous today due to accumulating snow and very low visibility in heavy snow," Environment Canada warned. "Motorists should adjust travel plans accordingly."
Further east, including Ottawa, the agency was forecasting about 15 cm of snow followed by freezing rain, which will lead to ice buildup.
The freezing rain warning extended into parts of Quebec, including Montreal, calling for two to five millimetres of rain beginning Tuesday afternoon.
Parts of southern Quebec are also under winter storm warnings, where 15 to 30 cm of snow is forecasted.
A winter storm watch is also in effect for parts of Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.
With files from The Canadian Press