A bitter Arctic chill settled across Canada and much of the United States Thursday, forcing people indoors, stranding motorists with dead car batteries and complicating firefighting duties.
In Canada, firefighters saw water at times freeze in their hoses as they battled an overnight blaze south of Montreal, in Quebec province.
Environment Canada increased the number of extreme cold warnings around the country, bulletins issued only when the cold “creates an elevated risk to health such as frost bite and hypothermia.”
Thursday morning the thermometer plunged to minus 40 C in Geraldton, in northern Ontario province. “And that’s not considering the wind chill factor,” said meteorologist Alexandre Parent with Environment Canada.
“We have to go back in 1993 to see this kind of weather in Ontario and Quebec,” he said.
Ice crystals fell in the northwestern city of Whitehorse when rain fell amid freezing wind.
The Arctic temperatures are expected to last into early 2018, Environment Canada said.
Health Canada warned that exposed skin could freeze in less than 10 minutes in places where temperatures were approaching minus 35 C.
Canadian homeless shelters struggled to keep up with the demand for services and issued special appeals for donations of warm clothes.
At the Ottawa Mission charity, cots for new arrivals spread into the dining hall and even the nearby church.
Separately, the Canadian Automobile Association said it has received more than 7,000 emergency calls in Quebec province — and almost 1,000 in Saskatchewan province — seeking emergency help, especially for automobile batteries that lost their charge in the extreme cold.
In the United States, the National Weather Service said that “dangerously cold temperatures and wind chills” were pummelling much of the central and eastern part of the country.
The NWS warned of an Arctic airmass “spanning from the High Plains to New England,” and forecast that one third of the country would experience temperatures hovering around minus 18 C on New Year’s Day.
In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo earlier warned residents to prepare for “dangerously cold weather,” with below-normal temperatures expected to be between minus 12.7 C and minus 6.6 C through Saturday. AFP / SAMAA