As of this morning an extreme cold warning was issued by Environment Canada. However, with the ongoing holiday season you may be curious to know just how long this extreme cold weather will last and how you can ensure your loved ones are kept safe. Warning Preparedness Meteorologist, Natalie Hasell has some knowledge worth noting.  

The current forecast

In the Lacombe area, it's looking like conditions may warm up just in time for Christmas.  

“Looking at our forecast right now, models suggest that the temperature should be warming up on Saturday (December 24). You've got it [the cold] for the work week. A little bit of flurry activity today but mostly clear starting tonight,” explained Hasell.  

“We could end up seeing a little bit of snow, I suppose, and temperatures already starting to improve on Friday, but the true marked difference will be seen on Saturday, Christmas Eve the 24th of December.”  

Although there is currently no snow forecasted for the later half of the week, Hasell wouldn’t be surprised if a bit of snow occurred with the low-pressure system moving in around Friday and Saturday. She also expects conditions to be even warmer on Christmas Day with a high of minus 6 currently projected for that day.  

If you are headed to any holiday parties or travelling before the weekend, she stressed the importance of staying out of the cold weather.  

“These extreme cold warnings are not really to tell you it’s cold. You know it’s cold. It’s not hard to figure that out. We issue them out so that people will remember to take precautions during this weather. People die in the cold. It’s preventable,” said Hasell.  

Signs of frostbite

During extreme cold, one of the first things she hopes people have an eye out for are the signs of frost bite.  

“You want to pay attention visually. Light colored skin will go from the red painful to yellow or a white waxy kind of look. [It’s] harder to tell in a darker skinned person. It's being shown that people of African descent, even with lighter colored skin, you know tan instead of dark, but people of African descent are physiologically different and they suffer from the cold a lot more,” explained Hasell.  

Older people, people with chronic illnesses, and people who take medication may also be more at risk to the cold. Hasell encourages people to check in regularly with their loved ones who may be out in the cold to confirm that they are well.  

Bundle up

It is also extremely important to bundle up with insulated and waterproof footwear, and to cover all areas of exposed skin. People who are suffering from hypothermia might start thinking they are warm and begin removing layers.  

“When people are actually freezing, they start thinking they're warm and they start taking off layers. If you're looking around and you see someone doing that, there is a problem. You might be the person to offer help, because hopefully alarm bells are going off in your head,” said Hasell.  

Extreme cold can stress the body and cause shortness of breath, chest pain, muscle pain, and weakness. Sometimes symptoms can be so severe that they feel similar to cardiac arrest.  

If you have to drive somewhere, be prepared

Hasell also recommends that during this time, people limit their exposure to the cold as much as possible. If you have to drive somewhere it is important to keep an emergency kit with you as well as fill up your fuel tank before leaving. If your car does end up stranded in the cold, remember that it is a large risk to leave your vehicle.  

“Unless you can get to shelter in a minute or less, if your car is still intact, stay in your car. It is already offering you shelter so don't put yourself at risk unnecessarily,” she added.  

Don't walk home in extreme cold

As for parties, she recommends people stay vigilant and ensure that everyone has a safe way of getting home or at least somewhere safe to stay until they are able to get home.  

“If people are having parties this week, don't let people walk home. Speaking of parties, alcohol and drugs can make you make poor decisions. You don't want to be making poor decisions when we're talking about frostbite and hypothermia and other things that could make life very short. Be that person who pays attention and who makes sure that people can get home and can get home safely,” she added. 

On average in Canada, more than 80 people die each year from over-exposure to the cold according to Ottawa Public Health. Hasell believes these deaths can be preventable as long as we pay attention to our own symptoms and those of others around us. 

You can stay up to date on the forecast by clicking here.