Mercury plunges to -42 degrees Celsius in Ontario, as Arctic blast hits Canada and northern US
‘In my memory I have never seen cold weather that settles for such a long time in such a broad expanse’
Forecasters warned of hypothermia and frostbite from arctic air settling in over most of Canada and the northern United States.
In Canada, extreme cold warnings were issued for scores of communities across the country, including the heavily-populated provinces of Ontario and Quebec.
In the US, a homeless man froze to death at a bus stop in downtown Cincinnati, Ohio, local media said, quoting police and a homeless charity.
While Toronto reported temperatures of -15 Celsius and Ottawa -25 Celsius, the coldest spot in Canada was -42.8 Celsius in Armstrong, Ontario, according to Environment Canada.
Extreme cold warnings are issued “when very cold temperatures or wind chill creates an elevated risk to health such as frost bite and hypothermia”, the government agency said.
The temperatures were 10 to 20 degrees below what is normal for the season, said meteorologist Alexandre Parent with Environment Canada.
The deep cold is forecast to remain until early January, he said.
“In my memory I have never seen cold weather that settles for such a long time in such a broad expanse,” Parent said.
High winds of up to 120km/h linked to the low temperatures left almost 160,000 homes in the eastern province of Nova Scotia – almost one-third of the power company’s customers – without electricity, officials said.
In the US, brutal sub-zero temperatures were recorded in places like Duluth, Minnesota (-37.7 Celsius) on Tuesday, and Minot, North Dakota (-29 Celsius).
A storm dumped a record-breaking 1.65 metres of snow in a 48-hour period on the Pennsylvania city of Erie, forcing officials to declare an emergency.
“The snow’s been crazy, oh my gosh, tons of snow. Running out of places to put it,” said Tom Nowosielski, whose department store was doing a brisk trade-in shovels, road salt, and car tyre chains.
He said he planned to use a bulldozer to help a family member clear his driveway. “That’s a first for us,” he said.
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf announced that the National Guard was “providing high clearance all-terrain military vehicles to aid local agencies with medical emergency and law enforcement response.”
In Minot, whose Air Force base houses a battery of Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles, the air was so cold that residents said it hurt simply to breathe in.
“The air hurts your face. And it hurts to breathe. Your skin instantly steams when you go outside,” said Morgan Alonia, 27, manager of the Broadway Bean and Bagel cafe.
“If you put your hand out the door, your hand will steam,” he said. “We took a pot of boiling water outside yesterday, and threw it in the air and made snow.”
Unusually low temperatures were also recorded in the US northern Atlantic states.
In New York, weather authorities told residents to expect temperatures of between -12.7 Celsius and -6.6 Celsius through Saturday, which they described as “well below the normal,” and Governor Andrew Cuomo warned residents to prepare for “dangerously cold weather ahead.”
Additional reporting by Associated Press