Arctic air puts freeze on Greater Trail

The last few days have been more than chilly after an Arctic freeze blew into the area, bringing record cold temperatures.

The last few days have been more than chilly after an Arctic freeze blew into the area, bringing record cold temperatures and the need to suddenly bundle up after a mild first month of the new year.

“What we are experiencing now is a true Arctic outbreak,” explained local forecaster Ron Lakeman from the Southeast Fire Centre.

“Which is not common in February,” he said.

“And it will linger for the next three or four days but it may not be quite as cold.”

A true Arctic system in western Canada means that temperatures can drop into the minus teens or colder, said Lakeman.

“The system pushed into the East Kootenay a few days back and filtered this direction when it got down to -14 C Saturday morning.”

Since the weekend, temperatures remained in that range, but dropped to -21.5 C Tuesday evening at the Castlegar airport, setting a new record low for the date and month, the previous low of -21 C, came on Feb. 3, 1996.

Nippy weather persisted at higher elevations Wednesday morning, with Red Mountain Resort reporting -27 C at the top of Granite Mountain accompanied by clear blue skies.

The resort warned skiers to bundle up and be wary of frostbite, which according to HealthLinkBC can happen to skin and tissues under the skin at temperatures below freezing.

Exposed skin can freeze in less than 10 minutes, and increase the chance of hypothermia, so several layers of clothing are recommended with an outer layer to protect against wind and moisture.

Cold injuries, or “frostnip,” are more common and usually affect the face, ears or fingertips, causing numbness, but normal feeling and colour return quickly as the skin becomes warm.

Good news for the ski hill is that a change to the clear cold is expected by the weekend when a south-to-north pressure system carries in some cloud cover, an increase in temperature and the chance of snow.

According to Lakeman, the area saw only 60 per cent of the normal monthly precipitation in January.

“This isn’t unusual,” he said. “Overall, it’s worth noting in January last year, even less precipitation was recorded.”

Additionally, the first month saw an average temperature 2.7 degrees milder than normal, and a near record high of 9.7 C on Jan. 11, followed by 7.3 C on Jan. 13.

“Warm air on upper elevations mixed with wind and brought a mild system into the valley those days,” he explained. “But nothing has really been out of the ordinary.”