Chilly Arctic air keeping Toronto under extreme cold warning as city prepares for 2018

Toronto will enter a new year on a very chilly note while the city remains under an extreme cold warning, Environment Canada says.

That means bone-chilling temperatures on New Year‘s Eve and New Year‘s Day. Toronto is forecast to have extremely cold windchills on the next two consecutive nights.

Mark Schuster, meteorologist for Environment Canada based in Toronto, said the forecast is calling for a high of –15 C, with windchill values in the –20s on Sunday afternoon, and a low of –22 C, with a windchill value of –30 on Sunday evening.

On Monday, the very first day of 2018, the forecast is calling for a high of –9 C with windchill values in the –20s during the day, and a low of – 22 C with a windchill value of –30 in the evening. 

A man walks his dog across the snow covered beach while a cargo ship sits in the steaming fog of Lake Ontario in Toronto. (Frank Gunn/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

“Anyone who is out doing anything to do New Year‘s Eve will likely have to deal with very cold windchills,” Schuster said on Sunday. “The best thing to do is try to limit your time outside.”

The extremely cold weather is unusual this early in winter, he said.

“It‘s not unusual to get these kind of cold snaps. But to get them so early in the winter season is fairly unusual. Normally, you would see this kind of weather later in January or into February.”

The record for Dec. 31st, set in 1962, at Toronto‘s Pearson International Airport is –23.3 C.

“It looks like we might come close to it,” he said. 

Warning may last until Tuesday

In its extreme cold warning, Environment Canada says Arctic air is gripping all of Ontario. That means frigid air from northern Canada is keeping Toronto cool. 

Christine Navarro, associate medical officer of health at Toronto Public Health, says people will need to wear layers of woolen and waterproof clothing and go inside from time to time where the air is heated this New Year‘s Eve. (CBC)

“Right now, it‘s coming right out of the Arctic, so it‘s much colder than if the air were coming from the South,” he said.

Schuster said the extreme cold warning may be extended right through until Tuesday morning, when the extreme cold air mass will begin to make its way out of the region. Temperatures will begin to moderate then, he said. On Tuesday, the high is forecast to be –7 C.

Extreme cold warnings are issued for the Toronto area when windchills are expected to be –30 or colder.

Below normal temperatures may persist up until January 10th, he added. Currently, temperatures are running more than 10 degrees below normal.

Revellers need to take care this NYE

Meanwhile, a Toronto public health official is urging revellers on New Year‘s Eve to be a little more careful this year than in the years past, given the extremely cold temperatures in the forecast. 

Revellers on New Year‘s Eve may need to be a little more careful this year than in the years past given the extremely cold temperatures forecast for Sunday night, says a Toronto public health official. (Barry Smith/CBC)

That means staying warm and dry, drinking in moderation and not exposing oneself to the cold for prolonged periods of time.

Christine Navarro, associate medical officer of health at Toronto Public Health, told CBC Toronto that people will need to wear layers of woolen and waterproof clothing and go inside from time to time where the air is heated. 

“So if you are planning on spending some time outside, whether it‘s out celebrating, or working in the outdoors, make sure that you go inside periodically to a warm building and make sure that you warm up,” she said this week.

“Wear your hat, your gloves, your mitten, warm boots, waterproof jacket. Dress in layers.” 

3 drinks for women, 4 drinks for men

Navarro says people out on the town on New Year‘s Eve should drink in moderation.

“You can always alternate with hot chocolate, coffee or tea to keep you warm during the celebrations,” she said. 

According to Canada‘s low-risk alcohol drinking guidelines, people can reduce risks of injury and harm by having no more than three drinks for women and no more than four drinks for men, on special occasions. The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse and Addiction developed the guidelines.

According to Canada‘s low-risk alcohol drinking guidelines, people can reduce risks of injury and harm by having no more than three drinks for women and no more than four drinks for men, on special occasions such as New Year‘s Eve. 

Watch out for frostbite, hypothermia

Navarro says frostbite and hypothermia are two consequences of being exposed to the cold for prolonged periods of time, she says.

Frostbite is when the skin or underlying tissues freeze and the freezing doesn‘t allow blood and oxygen to circulate. Symptoms include red and cold skin, prickling and numbness, tingling of fingers, nose and toes and stinging. Skin may start to turn white, but is still soft.

Hypothermia is a body temperature of less than 35 C. Symptoms include confusion, lethargy, memory loss, slurred speech, difficulty speaking and drowsiness.

In both cases, it could be a medical emergency, Navarro says. The person needs to be brought indoors and should receive medical attention.

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