‘It’s winter, it’s Canada, it’s what you expect’: Wave of bitter cold engulfs Alberta

CALGARY — With the entire province enveloped in a wave of bitter cold, agencies working with Calgary’s vulnerable population were going flat out Monday.

“Basically going and providing whatever resources we can at this time, it’s transportation to a warm shelter. We can also provide other resources like food and lunch bags. We have an encampment team that is part of the DOAP team, and the encampment team offers (things) like sleeping bags and stuff like that for people that are primarily staying outside year-roun,” Kyray Falk, a team lead with Alpha house’s Downtown Outreach Addiction Partnership (DOAP) team.

“Of course, obviously they are a higher priority right now with the low temperatures. The calls have just gone through the roof we usually get a lot of those calls, but as you can imagine with the cold weather it’s just skyrocketing.”

Calgary EMS says when the temperatures drop this low — the forecast calls for highs in the mid -20 C range on Tuesday and Wednesday with windchill making it feel like the -30s — it takes only seconds before skin starts to freeze.

“Areas of the body that are most prone to it, most sensitive generally, the tips of the toes, fingertips, your nose earlobes and the high points on the cheek are most susceptible,” said EMS Spokesperson Stuart Brideaux.

“If left unchecked it can turn into moderate or severe frostbite which is quite simply frozen solid skin.”

Many dog owners braved the cold in an effort to give their pets some outdoor fun despite the weather.

“It’s winter it’s Canada, it’s what you expect,” said Trevor Johnson, who was walking his two Labradors at Calgary’s Edworthy Park.

“We have to take it, hope for the best and it’s what … 40-some days ’til spring? That’s all I’m on the countdown for,” said fellow dog walker Lisa Ofnar.

The cold also stalled the reopening of the Pig and Duke pub in downtown Calgary.

Monday was supposed to make a long-awaited relaunch for the popular Fourth Avenue S.W. eatery, but when staff arrived there was no heat in the building.

“It’s very cold in here our thermostat says four-and-a-half degrees,” said Pig and Duke owner Jo Lowden.

“We are literally throwing money away, because our chefs have been preparing things all weekend. We’ve had all of our food come in, we’ve been prepping, we can’t unfortunately open today.”

“It’s unrealistic to ask our staff to work in these conditions, and for guests to come in and dine at their leisure.”

The blanket of cold enveloping the province will remain for several days, with temperatures expected to rise a bit, but remain hovering around -20 C for the remainder of the week.

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