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Bitterly cold conditions in the forecast trigger extreme cold warning (update)

Frostnip, frostbite and hypothermia are all risks
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Sea smoke over the Northwest Arm from Horseshoe Island Park

With frigid temperatures in the forecast, some Haligonians may be considering spending the start of the weekend in hibernation.

An extreme cold warning has officially been issued for the Halifax area, along with the rest of the province, calling for bitterly cold conditions Friday evening into Saturday.

The warning is triggered in Atlantic Canada whenever the temperature or wind chill is expected to reach minus 35 for at least two hours.

In addition, Environment Canada has also added in a risk of snow squalls to the forecast early Friday afternoon, with the potential of 4 cm in the heaviest flurries. 

In a Friday morning interview, Environment and Climate Change Canada's Bob Robichaud said we don't have to look too far away to get an idea of what's coming.

As of 9 a.m. the temperature was 1 degree at the Halifax airport, and minus 23 in Edmundston, N.B.

"That very, very cold air that's been bottled up in northern Canada has started to invade the Maritimes and ... here in Halifax, we should see the temperature start to drop late morning," Robichaud told CityNews Halifax. "Then there's going to be a steady drop after that as the winds gradually shift around to northwesterly."

By the end of the work day, it's expected to be about minus 12 degrees with a windchill of minus 23, and it just get worse from there.

"Probably the worst time is going to be the pre-dawn to morning hours on Saturday," he said. 

Expect it to be minus 24 when you wake up with a windchill of minus 39.

"So that air is on its way. It's going to be very cold combined with some dangerous wind chills," he stated.

"It's been several years since we've seen temperatures quite this cold so it is a fairly rare event for the Halifax area."

Robichaud said because windchill is a calculated value -- it's not measured with equipment -- official records aren't kept, but the lowest windchill he's aware of for the Halifax area came in 1967 when it was minus 41.1.

The frigid temperatures will linger into Saturday, which has a forecast high of minus 15 with an expected windchill of minus 27 in the afternoon.

"The winds are going to start to subside a little bit around suppertime, and then there's a pretty quick turnaround," Robichaud said.

"The winds shift around to southerly on Sunday and that should bump temperatures up to close or even above the freezing point by late in the day on Sunday."

Until then, Robichaud recommends staying inside if you can. If not, cover as much skin as possible with plenty of protective layers.

"It is a very dangerous situation with the combination of those cold temperatures and the wind."

Frostnip, frostbite and hypothermia are all risks in these conditions, and the elderly, very young children, and those with pre-existing conditions, chronic disease or persons with diseases of the blood circulation system are at higher risk of being affected by the cold weather.

"Watch for cold related symptoms: shortness of breath, chest pain, muscle pain and weakness, numbness and colour change in fingers and toes," the warning stated.

"Cover up. Frostbite can develop within minutes on exposed skin, especially with wind chill."

Nova Scotia's Department of Community Services says it will be ramping up supports for people experiencing homelessness. Call 211 for more information.

Here is a list of supports in Halifax Regional Municipality as of February 3 at 10 a.m.:


  • 902 Man Up is adding beds at the Christ Church shelter, 61 Dundas St., Dartmouth. It will be open for men only, 24/7.
  • 902 Man Up is expanding capacity at its shelter at 2029 North Park St., open Friday at 5 p.m. until Sunday at 9 a.m.
  • A warming centre at St. Matthew's United Church, 1479 Barrington St., will be open Friday at 5 p.m. to Sunday at 9 a.m. At this location, there will also be 20 beds available for the nights.
  • 902 Man Up will be offering shelter for 15 at Cunard Street Children's Centre, 5557 Cunard St., open Friday at 6 p.m. to Sunday at 9 a.m.
  • Beacon House is extending opening hours from Friday at 6 p.m. to Monday at 7 a.m. at the  warming centre at 125 Metropolitan Avenue, Lower Sackville.
  • Adsum for Women and Children is opening a mini warming centre at The Alders, 2380 Gottingen St., from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday through Sunday.
  •  There will be a shelter at The Old School Gathering Place, 7962 Hwy 7 in Musquodoboit Harbour, open Friday at 4 p.m. to Sunday at 6 p.m.

Transit will be available to take those in need to shelters. For more information call 311.

According to the Canadian Press, Community Services Minister Karla MacFarlane said anyone in need of shelter will get a bed, even if the government needs to rent hotel rooms.

"We have ramped up efforts, knowing what Mother Nature is going to bring us," MacFarlane said after a cabinet meeting in Halifax. "If there is anyone finding themselves in a precarious situation, there will be a bed for them — a safe place to stay." 

"We also have search and rescue out there ... looking in areas, touching base with service providers within their communities that are normally aware of individuals who may find themselves homeless."

And Halifax Regional Police are asking people to keep their pets in mind during this cold snap.

They say keep your pets indoors day and night. 

"Cold temperatures can still harm your pets even though they have fur," HRP said in a news release.

When it's time for a bathroom break, go with them. "If it’s too cold for you, it is too cold for them and you should head inside," said police.

And just like you wouldn't leave a pet in a car in the extreme heat, don't leave them there in the cold. Police say vehicles hold in cold air just like a refrigerator.

If you see an animal in distress call 902-490-5020 and take direction from the call taker.

With files from Canadian Press

Meghan Groff

About the Author: Meghan Groff

Born in Michigan, raised in Ontario, schooled in Indiana and lives in Nova Scotia; Meghan is the editor for CityNews Halifax.
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