Record-breaking cold hits British Columbia, Canada

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The ongoing blast of winter in parts of Canada’s British Columbia province smashed a handful of weather records this week. Chilcotin region registered -48.5 °C (-55.3 °F) on Tuesday, January 14, 2020, breaking the previous record for the date of -43.4 °C (-46.12 °F) set in 2005.  On Wednesday, January 15, ten cities broke cold records, with the oldest dating back to 1916.

An Arctic ridge of high pressure is bringing extreme cold to the northern, eastern, and central parts of British Columbia. Aside from Chilcotin breaking a 15-year-old coldest January 14 record, other cities in the province also shattered records on Wednesday for coldest January 15. The oldest records beaten were the following:

Burns Lake Area at -44.1 °C (-47.38 °F), breaking the previous record of -41.1 °C (-41.98 °F) set in 1950.

Vanderhoof at -44 °C (-47.2 °F), beating -40 °C (-40 °F) set in 1937.

Quesnel at -41.9 °C (-43.42 °F), smashing 1916 record of -41.1 °C (-41.98 °F).

Citizens in Chilcotin said the nighttime temperatures on Tuesday literally “bottomed out the Mercury,” with temperatures hitting beyond what they can read on thermometers.

According to resident Jennifer Toland, Tuesday was “the coldest anyone can remember.” She continued, “Pipes froze, log cabins logs cracked, but miraculously the chickens survived in an unheated coop.

On Wednesday, January 15, the Puntzi Mountain station was the coldest place in the province with a temperature of -48 °C (-54.4 °F). 

The extreme weather accompanied by blowing snow and cool air has prompted several schools and daycares to close, most on the south coast, with officials advising commuters to stay indoors.

Local media reported 33 canceled flights and more than 30 delayed flights at Vancouver International Airpot, while Metro Vancouver’s TransLink B.C. said SkyTrain Canada had been facing system-wide delays. Furthermore, Vancouver School District canceled classes for 50 000 students.

On Thursday, January 16, a frozen water pipe burst at Williams Lake’s Cariboo Memorial Hospital, leading to the closure of emergency patient entrance. Due to extreme cold, the main entrance to the hospital was already closed earlier this week, but the staff managed to still provide services.

As of Friday, January 17, the coldest spot in British Columbia was still Puntzi Mountain at -38.4 °C (-37.12 °F), according to Environment Canada. With the mind-numbing weather conditions, school District 27 announced that several buses out west canceled routes. 

Environment Canada posted several alerts and warnings on 11:30 UTC for British Columbia, including the following:

Extreme cold warnings for B.C. Peace River, Haines Road, South Klondike Highway, and Watson Lake B.C.; arctic outflow warnings for Central Coast and North Coast; snowfall warning for East and Inland Vancouver Island; and wind warnings for Haida Gwaii, and North and West Vancouver Island.

Moreover, winter storm watches are in effect for Fraser Valley, Howe Sound, North Coast, and Whistler. Special weather statements are in effect for Metro Vancouver and Sunshine Coast.

Featured image credit: Kathi Conway

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