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Alberta's extreme cold cracks a city LRT line, boosts calls to AMA

Tuesday, January 14th 2020, 2:14 pm - 'In this cold weather, hoses break, metal snaps. It's pretty much guaranteed'

How cold is it in Edmonton? Cold enough to crack one of the rail lines on the city's LRT system.

The cracked rail caused delays to morning commuters on the city's south end Tuesday morning, joining dead batteries and surreal views caused by ice fog as the deep freeze continues.

Traffic delays are expected on 111th Street, between 57th Avenue and Southgate Mall, on Tuesday as city crews manually control the gate arms of the LRT.

The rail line cracked overnight when temperatures plunged to –34 C, smashing a previous record set in 2005 when the mercury reached a comparatively balmy –28.3 C.

wind chill pr

Crews will work to repair the cracked rail after the morning commute is over, a city spokesperson said Tuesday in an email to CBC News.

Meanwhile, a refinery flare set the city skyline ablaze, its strange red glow accentuated by the frost.

In a tweet, Edmonton Fire Rescue Services said the flare would appear larger than normal in the cold but was no cause for alarm.

Extreme cold weather advisories issued Sunday remain in place for much of the province, putting dangerous pressure on the power grid, forcing schools to close and emergency homeless shelters to open.

The cold has also been causing headaches for Alberta drivers in the form of icy roads, bus cancellations, surge pricing for Uber rides, sputtering engines and dead batteries.

5,300 CALLS

Ryan Lemont, a spokesperson with the Alberta Motor Association, said road crews are struggling to keep up with demand as the deep chill settles in.

On Sunday, AMA received 5,300 calls for service across the province, about four times the normal volume.

Drivers who need help may have to wait up to 48 hours for assistance, especially if their vehicles are broken down at home. Priority is given to those stuck on the road, Lemont said.

Windchillrisk

DON'T MISS: UNKNOWN DANGERS OF EXTREME COLD

"If you are finding yourself in that situation, by all means, call as soon as you can," Lemont said.

"Typically in these situations, we'll send out available resources to people in those emergency situations first. Obviously, with temperatures of –25 C, safety is a concern."

The extreme cold forced the County of Grande Prairie to temporarily halt snow removal. The area has been contending with temperatures around –35 and operations won't resume until the deep freeze lets up.

"This way we don't have to go out and rescue a broken down machine," said Clint Diederich, operations manager for the city's public works department.

"In this cold weather, hoses break, metal snaps. It's pretty much guaranteed.

"We have 22 graders and one of them is assured to break down on a day like today. Some of them won't even start."

'JUST KEEP ON MOVING'

Wind chill values of –45 are expected in the Edmonton region Tuesday, with frigid temperatures forecast to persist throughout the week, Environment Canada said on its website.

The end to the cold snap is forecast to come on Sunday when the temperature in the city is expected to soar to a high of –4 C.

Until then, people are urged to dress appropriately and be mindful that frostbite can develop within minutes on exposed skin, especially when there is a wind chill.

Edmonton's Erin Shellamy, who clears snow for a living, has his own way of keeping warm.

"At 40-below, your boots don't do you much good once you stop moving but the snow provides me money and a job. You just try to keep your face covered, any open skin. You got to move the fingers, just keep on moving."

This article was originally published for CBC News.

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