Canadians everywhere like to think we have it rough when it comes to winter, but northern Canada is definitely winning that competition since parts of Ontario are going to feel like -50°C today. In Attawapiskat and other northern Ontario towns, Environment Canada has issued extreme cold weather warnings as the temperature plummets deep into the negatives.
Environment Canada has actually issued extreme cold warnings in nine different northern areas. They are Attawapiskat, Big Trout Lake-Sachigo Lake, Fort Hope-Webequie, Fort Severn, Geraldton-Manitouwadge-Hornepayne, Kapuskasing-Hearst, Moosenee-Fort Albany, Peawanuck, and Pickle Lake-Wannummin.
According to the warnings, these areas are expected to have cold temperatures and wind chills that will make it feel like anywhere from -40°C to -50°C, depending on which area you are in. These are wind chill levels that Environment Canada is calling dangerous. While the greatest risk is for young children, the elderly, anyone who is sick, or people who work outside these extreme temperatures can be dangerous and even life-threatening for anybody.
At -50°C it only takes about 2-3 minutes for any exposed skin to become completely frost-bitten, or in other words, frozen solid. This means that if you're outside in -50°C weather with a glove on for 2-3 minutes you would risk losing all your fingers.
On top of that, while your extremities are at the greatest risk for freezing off, your core temperature is where the real danger begins. If your core temperature drops below 37°C, the average temperature for humans, then hypothermia begins to set in.
Hypothermia comes in stages, first marked by shivering which is your body trying to warm itself, then as it gets worse, your breathing will start to slow down and you'll begin slurring words and acting like you're drunk. As your body gets colder you will actually stop shivering and your mind may not even think you're cold anymore. That's when the risk of death is highest.
While hypothermia is a very real risk in extreme cold like the ones experienced in Northern Ontario today, there are some things people can do to protect themselves. In their warning, Environment Canada recommends dressing in warm layers that can be removed if you get too hot. They also recommend that that outer layer be wind-resistant.
That is advice echoed and also followed by one Attawapiskat resident, who also happens to be a long distance, ultra marathon runner, who goes by @ultralouie online. In one of her Instagram posts, she mentions wearing lots of base layers to help protect from the sting of the wind. In her other photos, she is regularly bundled up with face coverings and goggles as protection too.
The extreme cold warnings are currently in effect in Northern Ontario and the -50°C temperatures are expected to remain all week long and into the weekend as well.
Disclaimer: Cover photo used for illustrative purposes only.