The City of Markham is issuing an extreme cold weather alert to residents, follow reporting from Environment Canada, for Jan 18 – 21. This means a wind chill of minus 30 degrees and blowing snow that will reduce visibility and a 10 cm coat of snow on roads.

The city specifies that most snowfall activity could last into late Saturday night, so an emergency car kit is essential. Drivers can store a cell phone charger, flashlight, blankets, sand bags, snacks, shovel, booster cables, and towing company numbers in it.

While putting their Operations Department on active standby, the city also warns that temperatures falling under minus-12 degrees will minimize the effectiveness of road salt. Visit markham.ca/winter for more info.

Extreme cold warnings are usually issued under very cold temperatures and wind chill causing health conditions like frostbite or hypothermia. Young children, the elderly, anyone with a chronic illnesses, working or exercising outdoors, and those without proper shelter and clothing are at a higher risk.

It is important to visit with or check on vulnerable family members, friends or neighbours, particularly isolated seniors. Making sure they have what they need to stay warm and dry could have a real impact on their safety.

Avoiding alcohol is also key to keeping body temperature stable as the increase in blood flow often gives the illusion of warmth, but you are actually losing body heat.

Here are some important tips for dressing appropriately in freezing temperatures:

  • Cover exposed skin as frostbite can develop within minutes, especially with increased wind chill.
  • Always wear clothing appropriate for the weather. Synthetic and wool fabrics provide better insulation. Dress in layers with a wind resistant outer layer.
  • Wear warm socks, mittens, a hat and scarf and be sure to cover your nose.
  • Change out of wet clothing as soon as possible to avoid losing body heat.

Skin can freeze in minutes under extreme temperatures, so staying out of the cold is essential this weekend. York Region funded Inn From the Cold Emergency Winter Shelter, and Mosaic Interfaith Out of the Cold Program are offering shelter over the weekend. You have to be at least 18 years-old to access their services that include clothing and meals.

The York Region Street Outreach Van is patrolling for homeless and at-risk-individuals, providing sleeping bags, warm clothes and referrals to shelter programs. Anyone in need of assistance is urged to call 1.866.553.4053.

As far as warming centres go, here is list of local Community Centres & Libraries:

• Aaniin Community Centre & Library, 5665 14th Ave
• Angus Glen Community Centre & Library, 3990 Major Mackenzie Dr. E
• Armadale Community Centre, 2401 Denison Street
• Cornell Community Centre & Library, 3201 Bur Oak Avenue
• Milliken Mills Community Centre & Library, 7600 Kennedy Road
• Thornhill Community Centre & Library, 7755 Bayview Avenue
• Centennial Community Centre, 8600 McCowan Road
• Markham Village Library, 6031 Hwy 7
• Unionville Library, 15 Library Lane

For information, visit markham.ca/AreYouPrepared

Photo Credit: Ethan Hu