As an immense Arctic air mass settled over the eastern half of Canada today, Environment Canada issued an unusually long list of extreme cold warnings that covered six provinces and communities in both territories.
In scores of cities and towns, government and private agencies were scrambling to provide shelter for vulnerable people as the wind was expected to make the temperature feel like -40 C to -50 C in many areas.
In Nova Scotia, Environment Canada meteorologist Ian Hubbard said residents in Halifax should brace for icy gusts that will make it feel like -43 C, which could set a record for an area that hasn't had an extreme cold warning since 2015.
Residents of P.E.I. are also being warned about bitterly cold conditions, with the wind making it feel like -41 C later tonight — and Hubbard said the wind chill values will be even be lower in northern New Brunswick.
In these conditions, frostbite can develop in minutes on exposed skin, which has set off alarm bells for those who care for people without housing.
Rev. Kyle Wagner at Christ Church in downtown Dartmouth, N.S., said the men's shelter has been packed in recent weeks, which is why plans are in the works to make more room for those who don't normally come inside.
Wagner said the forecast is dire enough that people who spend the night outside might not survive the cold.