Atlantic Canadians warned to prepare for extreme cold this weekend

HALIFAX — The three Maritime provinces are bracing for dangerously cold temperatures on Friday and into the weekend as an arctic air mass makes its way to the region.

Environment Canada had issued extreme cold warnings for all of New Brunswick, where the wind will make it feel as cold as -50 C across a wide swath of the northern counties, starting Friday afternoon and into Saturday morning.

"Watch for cold-related symptoms: shortness of breath, chest pain, muscle pain and weakness, numbness and colour change in fingers and toes," Environment Canada said in a statement issued Thursday afternoon.

"Cover up. Frostbite can develop within minutes on exposed skin, especially with wind chill."

The New Brunswick government issued a statement advising residents to wear several layers of clothing when going outside and to drink warm fluids while avoiding caffeine and alcohol, which can cause rapid heat loss.

As well, bitterly cold temperatures are in the forecast for Nova Scotia and P.E.I., where the wind will make it feel as cold as -40 C — easily the coldest temperatures of the season so far. And it will be even colder in the Cape Breton Highlands and along Nova Scotia's north shore.

Nova Scotia Community Services Minister Karla MacFarlane promised that anyone in need of shelter will be provided with a bed, even if the government needs to rent hotel rooms.

"We have ramped up efforts, knowing what Mother Nature is going to bring us," MacFarlane said after a cabinet meeting in Halifax. "If there is anyone finding themselves in a precarious situation, there will be a bed for them — a safe place to stay."

Emergency shelters across the province will open Friday.

"We also have search and rescue out there ... looking in areas, touching base with service providers within their communities that are normally aware of individuals who may find themselves homeless," MacFarlane said.

Meanwhile, the P.E.I. Emergency Measures Organization issued a statement Thursday urging residents to take precautions to reduce the risk of frostbite and windburn.

The organization also issued a list of safety tips, including having a winter survival kit when travelling in a car and checking on family, friends and neighbours.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, Environment Canada says snow, rain and strong winds will lash the province on Friday, with a mass of extremely cold air moving in Friday night and lingering until Sunday — though there was no indication how low temperatures will drop.

The snow will start to fall over southwestern Newfoundland on Friday morning and spread across the rest of the island throughout the day, eventually mixing with rain over southern and eastern sections of the island.

Flurries are expected to continue with strong winds on Saturday, and snow squalls likely along the south coast, where visibility may be reduced at times.

"Travel could become difficult," Environment Canada said in a statement. "If you must travel, be prepared for delays and allow extra time to reach your destination."

A winter storm warning has been issued for the Burgeo and Ramea areas along the island's south coast, and a snowfall warning is in effect for the southern tip of Labrador. Both areas can expect up to 25 centimetres of snow.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 2, 2023.

Michael MacDonald, The Canadian Press