Threat for -50 wind chills across Quebec into Saturday, ski resorts close
Widespread extreme cold warnings are in effect across Quebec, with an exceptional Arctic air mass settling in over the province to start the weekend. Moderate winds will also send wind chill values into dangerous territory, ranging between -40 and -50 into Saturday morning. This is a situation where frostbite can occur in just minutes.
"Extreme cold puts everyone at risk," says Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) in the warning.
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The urban heat island effect, where concrete traps and radiates heat, will likely keep Montreal just above the -30-degree mark through the most severe parts of this cold snap, but the daytime highs will still tremendously suffer.
If you look at the basic threshold for a severe cold warning, you need a wind chill of at least -38 for the area, something the city hasn't hit since January 6th, 2018.
Take Mont-Sainte-Anne, a ski hill north of Quebec City, which will have a wind chill near -48 early Saturday morning making a difficult and dangerous morning on the slopes. Mont-Saint-Anne, Stoneham and Massif de Charlevoix resorts all opted to close for the day on Friday, with Massif du Sud closing for Saturday as well.
The Quebec Winter Carnival is also postponing its opening on Friday due to the extreme cold conditions.
"Dress warmly," ECCC says. "Dress in layers that you can remove if you get too warm. The outer layer should be wind resistant. Cover up. Frostbite can develop within minutes on exposed skin, especially with wind chill. Outdoor workers should take regularly scheduled breaks to warm up."
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Friday will likely feature the coldest daytime highs since January 2004 across southern Quebec, with early Saturday morning having the chilliest low temperatures since 2004. A reasonable forecast is an overnight low of -28°C or -29°C.
The last time Montreal dipped below the -30°C mark, the Montreal Canadiens were reigning Stanley Cup champions. Before that, there are over 60 recordings of temperatures below the -30°C mark in the climate record.
There will be immense temperature variations across Montreal Island, due to open water, wind direction and the aforementioned heat island. Concerns about freezing fog accreting on bridges will continue to be a hazard in the days to come.
Furnaces will be working overtime and Hydro-Québec said it's preparing to face a "historic peak" in demand for electricity. As a result, the utility is intending to temporarily reduce its electricity exports and even pay a premium to import some power, according to a report from CBC News.
The pattern flips as fast as the temperatures plummet, with a rebound to near-freezing temps and periods of snow as early as Sunday.
Check back for the latest forecasts and conditions across Quebec.