Well, it had to happen eventually. The first real shot of winter is on it’s way as very cold Arctic air barrels southwards through the Prairies this week. The bright side? It should be relatively short-lived.
Today marks the beginning of the big cool-down for us. A cold front that passed through overnight bringing in northwesterly winds and the leading edge of the cold air. Our temperature will remain fairly steady near about –7°C through the day with mostly sunny skies and a breezy northwesterly wind at 30–50km/h. We’ll see some increasing cloud towards the evening hours which will bring a slight chance of some flurries tonight as a weak disturbance slides through the Dakotas and southeastern Manitoba. Temperatures will dip to around –15 or –16°C tonight as colder air continues to infiltrate southwards.
→ -7°C / -15°C
Cool and breezy. Chance of flurries tonight.
-14°C / -19°C
Sunny and cold.
-14°C / -23°C
Chance of a morning flurry then sunny and cold.
Thursday will bring mainly sunny skies and cold weather as we climb to only around –14°C. The winds will be lighter which will help a little bit. Even more cold air is on it’s way, though. We’ll drop to around –19°C on Thursday night, but some clouds will build into the Red River Valley overnight into Friday morning as another weak disturbance dives southwards through Manitoba, bringing yet more cold air with it. We’ll see a very slight chance of a light flurry or two with the passage of this system, but it will be much more a “cold air bringer” than a snow-maker.
Friday will see mainly sunny skies, save for the possible clouds in the morning, and we’ll see temperatures rebound to around –15°C. Bitterly cold air will begin working it’s way in through the evening hours, though, and we’ll see our temperature drop all the way to –22 or –23°C on Friday night. Winds will be light, but it will likely still be quite easy to hit a –30 wind chill, so be sure to bundle up if you need to be out.
Fortunately, it doesn’t look like the cold weather will be here for long. Warmer air will be pushing eastwards across the Prairies quickly behind this system and we should see temperatures moderate back to the mid-minus-single-digits by the end of the weekend.
With the first snow under our belt and the first shot of very cold weather on the way, it’s a good time to bring up winter survival. It’s certainly no joke and things that are minor inconveniences in warmer months – such as your car breaking down on the highway – can easily become life or death situations in winter time.
One of the first steps is making sure you have a winter survival kit in your car. They’re very easy to put together (you can also buy them an many retailers including Canadian Tire and CAA Manitoba) and can make the difference between life and death in some winter situations. To make your winter survival kit, find something like a small duffel bag or other bag you can ensure is sealed shut (e.g. snaps or zippers) and put in:
- Ice scraper and brush
- Flashlight and extra batteries
- Booster cables
- Shovel and tow rope
- Flares or other signal aids
- Sand or kitty litter
- Candles and coffee tin (to
warm hands, heat a drink or use as an emergency light)
- Matches/lighter (in a waterproof bag)
- Blankets/warm clothing
- Granola bars, candy, sugar cubes
- First aid kit
- Hatchet or axe
- Cellular phone
- Methyl hydrate (fuel line de-icing)
- Traction mats
- Cloth or roll of paper towels
- Small fire extinguisher
- Reflective vest
Not all of these need to be present for a basic winter survival kit; most important are ways to stay warm, visible, fed and safe.
The CAA has an excellent brochure available going over some winter driving tips.
Some useful winter travel links:
- Manitoba Forecasts, Watches/Warnings and Special Weather Statements
- Manitoba Highway Conditions
- CAA Safe Winter Driving Tips
- Our RADAR Viewer can be very useful in tracking snow.
Also keep in mind that even if it’s not snowing, strong northerly or southerly winds in the Red River Valley tend to produce significant blowing snow on any west/east running roads and highways. I’ve had more than one trip to Altona that has had a beautiful sunny drive on Highway 75 turn into a dangerous, slow crawl through near-zero visibility after turning west onto Highway 14.
Lastly, one of the biggest dangers cold weather has on you is how it impacts your body. One of the primary things that is affected when your body’s core temperature drops is your ability to make decisions.
The cold remains a mystery, more prone to fell men than women, more lethal to the thin and well muscled than to those with avoirdupois, and least forgiving to the arrogant and the unaware.
Outside magazine did an absolutely excellent article about freezing to death. It’s superbly written and will help you understand what happens as your core body temperature drops. Even if you have an idea, give the article a read because it’s a phenomenal piece of educational writing.
Hopefully you never find yourself in a situation where you actually need to use any of this advice. It never hurts to be prepared, though. Here in Southern Manitoba we live in one of the harshest winter climates out there and all it takes is a few simple measures to make sure you’re ready for it. And, as I always mention, if there’s a significant winter storm and your travel plans are flexible, it’s always wiser to wait it out than push through it.
I hope this little section offers some help and that you can all stay out of the wind, safe and warm.