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Finally feeling the chill as parts of eastern Canada plunge into the -20s

Thursday, January 28th 2021, 9:15 pm - This winter's mild streak comes to an end for some major cities across eastern Canada this weekend. Temperatures plunge into the -20s.

An absence of widespread Arctic air across North America has kept temperatures much milder than normal for most of the winter so far. In fact, the staggering warmth recorded during the heart of winter so far has landed a number of Canadian cities with temperatures about 10°C above seasonal.

These eye-opening extremes have led to a delay in many major cities seeing the bitter cold temperatures that typically appear from time to time in any winter season.

That's all about to change however, with some of the coldest weather of the season so far making for a much colder weekend than what many have grown accustomed to across parts of eastern Canada, and also driving another lake-effect snow event, which began Thursday and will continue somewhat into Friday.


"A late January shift in the pattern will bring the mild streak to an end, as a shot of frigid air shifts out of the Prairies and into eastern Canada," says Weather Network meteorologist Michael Carter.

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Extreme cold warnings gripped parts of the Prairies for days, as temperatures took a dangerous dip and wind chills plunged well into the -40s. It was even cold enough to force the cancellations of school buses in Saskatoon earlier this week.

Those warnings have dropped, as the cold air arrives across the east to round out the week – but it won't be as unforgiving to Ontario and Quebec by the time it arrives Friday, with wind chill values not as extreme as the Prairies.


"But we will still see the arrival of the first -20°C low temperatures for places like Ottawa and Montreal," Carter says, adding that the city of Toronto won't be far off either. "These will likely be the second-latest date to reach that benchmark for both of these major Canadian cities."

Ottawa and Montreal will equally share in the frigid conditions that are much more typical of Canadian's northern communities like Churchill, Manitoba and Whitehorse. Even daytime highs of -10°C are expected across much of the Greater Toronto Area this weekend.

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Extreme cold warnings are already in effect for parts of northern Ontario, with wind chills in the -40s felt early Thursday morning.

"Watch for cold related symptoms: shortness of breath, chest pain, muscle pain and weakness, numbness and colour change in fingers and toes," says Environment Canada in the warning.

Those cold winds over the still largely unfrozen Georgian Bay and Lake Huron brought the lake-effect snow machine back into action Thursday, with effects expected to linger through a fair bit of Friday.

As this latest shot of snow will mostly coincide with the coldest weather of the season so far, part of an enduring stretch of below-zero daytime highs, both it, and the remnants of the swath of snow that brought traffic to a standstill across the region on Tuesday, will stick around for some time.


An extended period of more traditional mid-winter weather has finally arrived.

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