Extreme cold warning in effect for eastern Ontario, western Quebec
An extreme cold warning is still in effect Friday afternoon for all of eastern Ontario and western Quebec.
The forecast for the Ottawa-Gatineau region will see a daytime high of –25 C, but with the wind chill it could feel more like –42.
The low Friday night drops to –31 C, with a wind chill of –43.
Buses for English language schools in Ottawa, French schools, and English schools outside of Ottawa are experiencing delays or cancellations.
On Saturday, temperatures will rise but the wind will still be biting, with a daytime high of –14 C in Ottawa. Wind chill values will hover around –40 in the morning, easing off somewhat in the afternoon when it will feel closer to –21.
Environment Canada is warning that frostbite can develop within minutes on exposed skin under these conditions.
"Risks are greater for young children, older adults, people with chronic illnesses, people working or exercising outdoors, and those without proper shelter," the agency said.
Health units are sharing warning signs of frostbite and explaining how to dress for the weather. Municipalities like Gatineau, Kingston, Ont., and Ottawa are offering lists of places to warm up and resources for people without homes.
After Saturday, the mild temperatures that have been a hallmark of this autumn and winter should return, with daytime highs forecast at or above 0 C on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.
Outreach in the cold
Mikyla Tacilauskas, supervisor of the street outreach team with the Salvation Army, said they were out all Thursday night helping people access shelters.
Tacilauskas said the team gave out five sleeping bags to people who didn't want to go inside, noting that sometimes people don't feel safe in a dorm-like setting.
"We never want to force people to go inside if that's not their wish," she said.
"We have quite a large list of clients who we know don't access shelter often, and our goal is to connect with them once every 12 hours in the ongoing polar vortex just to make sure they're OK."
The team will be out until Sunday morning to try to make sure people aren't left out in the cold, Tacilauskas said.
She said if anyone sees someone on the street who looks like they need help, they should call the city at 311 and ask for the street outreach van and the team will get there as quickly as possible.
Ottawa Mission's busiest night of the year
The Ottawa Mission, meanwhile, said the sharp temperature drop late Thursday led to its busiest night of the year.
"This is the coldest day I've seen in some time at the Ottawa Mission, yes indeed," said CEO Peter Tilley.
Tilley said if things get too crowded at their shelter, they have an arrangement with the city where a van will pick people up and bring them to another shelter.
Workers will be going out tonight around the Ottawa Mission to ensure people aren't spending the night outside, he said.
"We're really asking people to stay inside and stay out of the cold," Tilley said.
"We remind people that everyone in the community has a responsibility, if they see someone, to call 311. Or if they sense they're in distress, they call 911."