Edmonton suffers South Pole cold, blowing snow

Edmonton was colder than the South Pole on Thursday morning but after a week of breathtakingly frigid temperatures, the morning was relatively balmy.

Commuters in the capital city awoke to blowing snow, slick roads and icy temperatures around –30 C.  (The South Pole was –26 C.) 

That’s a considerable improvement over every other day this week. Early morning temperatures have hovered around –40 C with a biting wind that has made it feel more like –50. 

All of Alberta remains under an extreme cold warning as frigid arctic air sweeps across most of Western Canada.

As of 7 a.m., the Fort Vermilion region was the coldest spot in the province with temperatures hovering around –45 C.  Temperatures in Fort McMurray were around –40 C. 

The cold has put a chill on almost every aspect of life in the province. Pipes are freezing. Furnaces have quit. Cars won’t start. Parking meters have frozen solid. The electrical grid has struggled under the pressure of nearly unprecedented demand. 

The Calgary Zoo cancelled its much-loved “Penguin Walk” because it was too cold for the  sub-Antarctic creatures. People have turned their frozen shirts into Frisbees. Schools have shuttered and buses called off the roads.

‘Unchartered territory’

And the cold has also cracked a second steel rail line on Edmonton’s Capital Line LRT track. 

The first crack was discovered Tuesday  at 111th Street and 51st Avenue.

The first track problem near the Southgate LRT Station early Tuesday caused delays, reducing the number of trains and causing traffic back-ups as crews manually operated the signal arms. 

Crews worked through the night to fix it Tuesday, as temperatures plunged to –45. Their equipment kept breaking down in the cold and repairs took a day longer than expected.

Then another crack was discovered Wednesday night at 34th Avenue forcing repair crews back out into the cold for a second night. The track was fully repaired around 2 a.m. Thursday.

“They put in temporary repairs that are solid and will hold until we’re able to go back in the spring,” Edmonton Transit spokesperson Rowan Anderson said Thursday.

“This is kind of unchartered territory for some of the infrastructure we have here in the city,” Anderson said.

“You’re out there constantly troubleshooting in the cold and trying to figure out how we can get this done.”

Environment Canada forecasts the arctic air mass will remain over Alberta for several days but Alberta’s frozen ordeal is almost over.

The mercury is expected to rise on Monday.  

Until then, think warm thoughts.

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