With an arctic front settling in over Airdrie and the region, temperatures during the latter part of the week may be only a few degrees shy of -50 in the evening. 

Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) is forecasting the bone-chilling temperatures to begin on Wednesday. The daytime for tomorrow will be -20 degrees Celsius, with wind chills nearing -30, while the evening will see temperatures plummeting nearly 10 degrees in the evening to -29. However, it is the evening lows on both Thursday and Friday that may trigger extreme cold warnings.

Thursday's daytime high will be -29, while in the evening, it is predicted to reach -37 degrees Celsius. Friday night may be the coldest night of the week with a nighttime low approaching -50 degrees. 

Alysa Pederson, a Warning Preparedness Meteorologist with ECCC, said that an extreme cold warning may be triggered in the coming days.

"The warnings would go out 12 hours ahead of time; when we're seeing temperatures or wind chills going below -40," she explained. 

Looking at recent historical data, we may break historical temperature records. January 11, 2019, recorded a temperature of -27.6, which may be trumped with this year's daytime temperature as well as the frigid nighttime temperatures. We may also break a record on Friday, as the coldest temperature in recent memory was recorded in 2022 at -25.2 degrees. 

The temperatures have triggered several reminders of safety for residents. The Alberta Motor Association (AMA) has said that plugging in one's car will be imperative.

"When it’s -15 degrees, plugging in your vehicle three to four hours before driving can often be the difference between an engine that starts and an engine that doesn’t," said Mark Pasternak, Chief Instructor for AMA Driver Education. "If you don’t have that option, ensure you have a newer battery—about three years old or less—and consider using synthetic oil if you can.”

In extreme cold, The AMA said it receives requests for Roadside Assistance roughly every 40 seconds, as well as calls about dead batteries, which can spike by six times the usual number. Tips for vehicle maintenance amid the coming arctic temperatures include:

  • For most vehicles, plugging in at -15 or colder is ideal—three to four hours should do it. Older vehicles, or those with maintenance issues, may need to be plugged in at a warmer temperature.
  • Winter tires will give you much better traction on snow and ice, helping you stop sooner and maintain more control.
  • Ensure your tires are properly inflated. Most tires lose one pound per square inch for every 5°C drop in temperature.
  • Consider switching to synthetic oil, which will reduce the wear and tear on your engine and help it turn over in frigid temperatures.
  • Ensure your gas tank is at least half full and consider using gas-line antifreeze if your vehicle frequently moves from warm to cold environments (e.g. a heated garage to an outdoor parking lot).
  • Keep your vehicle windows and roof clear of snow and ice.

Driving in extreme cold also means being well-prepared including:

  • Scan the road ahead and maintain a safe following distance that allows for adjustments. When the roads are icy or snowy, this means at least four to six seconds.
  • Drive to the weather, keeping in mind that the posted speed limit refers to ideal conditions.
  • Always carry an emergency roadside kit. This should include things like a blanket, warm clothing, caution triangles, a flashlight, gloves, and a folding shovel.
  • Avoid unnecessary trips during extreme weather.
  • When you see a tow truck assisting a stranded driver, slow to 60 km/h (or lower if the posted speed limit is lower) and move over a lane, if possible. 

The onset of the extreme cold also coincides with policing agencies across Alberta re-starting their Operation Cold Start program, which will last till Friday, January 12. Operation Cold Start is designed to work with the public to reduce the theft of idling vehicles during the winter months.

"Law enforcement agencies will be performing a variety of tasks to help keep vehicles safe. They will be checking on unattended, idling vehicles to see if the keys are in them, and whether or not they are properly secured. Officers will also be participating in educational efforts to teach the public ways to keep their property safe," Alberta Mounties stated earlier this week.

Police added that vehicle theft doesn’t only affect vehicle owners; it has an impact on the greater community. Not only do thefts increase the cost of insurance across the province, but stolen vehicles can also be used for further crime, or even be put back on the market and sold to unsuspecting Albertans.

“Warming up your vehicle briefly before your commute might seem convenient, but this convenience can turn into a serious problem when your vehicle is stolen. Vehicle-related crimes often occur due to opportunistic situations,” said Cpl. Mike Fulton of the Alberta RCMP’s Community Safety and Well-being Branch.

In 2021, 8.3 per cent of vehicles stolen in Alberta RCMP jurisdiction were left idling.

The Alberta RCMP offers the following tips for vehicle safety:

  • If you can’t park in a garage or driveway, ensure that you’re parking in a visible well-lit area.
  • Visible anti-theft devices like steering wheel locks can help mitigate vehicle thefts and break-ins.
  • If possible, look into automatic car starters as an option to warm your vehicle.
  • Never leave your vehicle unattended if the keys are in it.
  • Always lock your vehicle's doors even if you’re parked in a driveway or garage.
  • Never leave valuable items like wallets, keys, purses, or even change visible in an unoccupied vehicle.
  • Most modern engines do not require a ‘warm-up’ period. If your vehicle does need to warm up, do not leave it unattended.

The frigid temperatures have also initiated The City of Airdrie to announce warming spaces available for the city's most vulnerable residents, while school boards are reminding parents to be cognizant that there may be school bus disruptions if temperatures meet the threshold

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