Prairies coping in deep freeze

The answer to that age-old question — cold enough for ya? — was a resounding yes across the Prairies last weekend.


Tractors and trucks froze and farmers layered up to move more feed and check water bowls in extreme wind chills of -50 C.


Bill McMurtry, a meteorologist at Environment Canada in Calgary, said it was colder than usual but not record-setting.


Temperatures would have to be well into the – 40s C for that to have happened. 


Instead, temperatures around -36 C, coupled with winds of 10 to 15 km-h created bone-chilling cold Jan. 6 that put all of Saskatchewan under a weather warning and cancelled most school buses on the first day back after the holiday.


“No records were set the last three days,” McMurtry said of Saskatchewan’s temperatures. 


The same was true in Alberta, while one temperature record fell in Manitoba.


“It’s cold, there’s no doubt,” he said.


“It’s colder than average but not unusual.”


For example, the average daily mean in Winnipeg in December is -14.4 C. This December it was -20.4 C.


The typical mean in Regina is -13.2 C, but this December it was -18.3 C.


“That’s a 5.1 degree departure from normal,” McMurtry said.


“That’s significant.”


Alberta temperatures were also significantly below normal, he said.


Precipitation was above average in December across most of the Prairies, except in western and northwestern Alberta, where it was two to three times the average snowfall.


“Grande Prairie has over a metre already,” McMurtry said.


Heavy snow is said to have contributed to a collapsed roof at Tent D in Red Deer’s Westerner Park in late December.


Ken Munro, a Twitter user from Innisfail, Alta., posted a photo of his machine shed after its roof collapsed.


Other farmers also took to Twitter to show followers how they were coping with the cold.


Tara Davidson of Lonesome Dove Ranch near Ponteix, Sask., said nothing works right in the cold, from eyeglasses to pens to augers to people.


Jason Hubbard of Avonlea, Sask. was using a truck to pull bales from stacks because the tractor froze, while Jace Brown of Carievale, Sask., said a big feed bill is unavoidable when cold weather hits.


“When it gets 50 below, it’s about survival, not profitability,” he tweeted.


Meanwhile, bison producer Robert Johnson at Fairlight, Sask., said it was business as usual because his animals can handle the cold.


Others weren’t so fortunate.


People and livestock throughout the United States struggled to cope with weather they don’t often encounter. 


Reuters reported that the dormant wheat crop in the Midwest and Plains regions is likely damaged as a result of near-record low temperatures.


Eastern Canada also suffered through several storms, cold temperatures and widespread power outages.


McMurtry said the good news is that the weather was expected to warm considerably by the end of this week and actually be warmer than seasonal averages.


He predicted a range of -2 to -4 C for highs in southern Saskatchewan by the weekend.