July 18th, 2024

Winter weather continues to grip Canada, but some B.C. cold warnings being dropped

By Sonja Puzic and Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press on January 14, 2024.

Cold temperatures across the province sets in as a man reflected off the Queen Victoria statue takes a picture of the fountain out front of the legislature freezes over during a cold spell in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 12, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

Cold weather warnings across much of British Columbia lifted Sunday ahead of a warming trend in the forecast, but the Prairies are likely facing another day or two of bone-chilling temperatures after a weekend of cold, snow and windstorms that affected all parts of the country.

The systems that brought heavy snow and high winds to much of Central and Atlantic Canada, leaving thousands without power in the process, had largely dissipated by Sunday

And relief started to arrive in B.C. as Environment Canada lifted arctic outflow and extreme cold warnings for the Metro Vancouver, Fraser Valley, Howe Sound, Prince George, Cariboo, South Thompson and North Coast areas.

But Alberta continued to experience frigid temperatures, with Calgary and Edmonton residents warned to expect wind chills of up to -50 and periods of dense ice fog, especially in early mornings and evenings.

Edmonton recorded a temperature of -35 C Sunday, with Calgary at -28 C.

Environment Canada said temperatures across Alberta were expected to “moderate” Monday.

The national weather agency said despite somewhat warmer temperatures on the way for Alberta, a hazardous frostbite warning remains in effect. Highs of just -21 C are forecast for Edmonton and Calgary on Monday.

Alberta officials asked residents to conserve energy during the peak demand period of 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. as the cold snap continues.

The Alberta Electric Systems Operator issued grid alerts Friday and Saturday, and Utilities Minister Nathan Neudorf warned there was a high risk of rotating outages Saturday night, which did not occur.

B.C.’s public energy utility, BC Hydro, issued a statement on Sunday saying it sent about 200 megawatts of power to Alberta after the grid alert from that province’s electricity Operator.

“Extreme weather events like drought and cold snaps are putting people and communities at increased risk,” B.C. Energy, Mines and Low Carbon innovation minister Josie Osborne said in a statement.

“Thanks to the resiliency of our energy system and exceptional planning by BC Hydro, we are able to meet the needs of British Columbians while also delivering clean, reliable hydro-electricity to our neighbours in Alberta when they needed it most.”

BC Hydro said the extreme cold drove peak hourly electricity demand across the province to a record high on Friday night, reaching 11,300 megawatts.

But B.C. did not escape the cold snap unscathed, with two hospitals and at least one ice arena hit by the deep freeze.

Patients needing emergency treatment in Mission were being diverted to nearby Fraser Valley hospitals at Maple Ridge, Langley, Abbotsford or Chilliwack after pipes froze and burst at Mission Memorial Hospital, causing a flood in the emergency department.

At Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops, a front-door heater at an emergency waiting area malfunctioned and temperatures dropped to -6 C Saturday.

“All patients waiting in the temporary waiting room were immediately moved to the main waiting room, where there is significantly less cold air coming from outside,” Gerry Desilets, the hospital’s clinical operations director, said in a statement Sunday.

“Our staff also routinely give out blankets and check on patients,” he said. City of Kamloops officials said Saturday frozen pipes forced the closure of a local ice arena in the Valleyview community.

Further east, tens of thousands of Ontarians had their power restored after a winter storm dumped snow and brought high winds across much of the province Saturday.

But Environment Canada was forecasting more snow for some regions on Sunday, with snow squall warnings in effect for areas such as Niagara Falls and Bracebridge.

Meanwhile, weather alerts issued for Atlantic Canada over the weekend have been lifted everywhere except for the western coast of Newfoundland, where residents were warned of potentially damaging winds on Sunday.

The Atlantic region faced powerful blasts of wind and major tidal surges along the coast Saturday. More than 5,000 homes lost power during the storm’s peak, but most of the outages were restored by Sunday.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 14, 2024.

– With files from Lyndsay Armstrong in Halifax.

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