Murray Helmer scrapes his driveway in 100 Mile House Tuesday morning during the polar vortex that swept across Western Canada this week. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)

Murray Helmer scrapes his driveway in 100 Mile House Tuesday morning during the polar vortex that swept across Western Canada this week. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)

Cold snap prompts outreach efforts

The South Cariboo experienced record-breaking freezing temperatures this week

The South Cariboo was plunged into a deep freeze this week, with record-breaking temperatures prompting extreme weather warnings over the span of several days.

The coldest temperatures in the region were recorded in the early morning hours of Dec. 27, when the weather station in Clinton registered -35.8, smashing that date’s previous cold record of -26, set in 1992. Extreme cold warnings were issued by Environment Canada Sunday and again on Tuesday morning through to Wednesday, when temperatures dipped close to -40C with the wind chill.

The cold weather had outreach staff in the community working around the clock to keep vulnerable residents safe and warm.

Outreach workers with the Canadian Mental Health Association South Cariboo branch were out lending a hand to at-risk members of the 100 Mile House area, including homeless and those without proper heat or shelter.

“Over the past 24 hours, we have been very busy,” outreach worker Melonie Eva said Monday morning, after being on call for several days. “At about 4 o’clock last night (Dec. 26) the phone calls started coming in and the phone hasn’t stopped since.”

A priority for staff is to help those who are without a place to find warm and safe shelter, Eva said. Helping those in need to access a warm meal and suitable winter clothes has also been keeping her busy over the past week.

“Anywhere that people are needing help, we will get in touch,” she said. “If I can’t reach them in and around town, the RCMP have also been helping to fetch people, if they are stuck or their vehicles are frozen.”

Donations of hot meals for those in need are always welcome, Eva said, noting that the CMHA office at 555 Cedar Ave. was back open as of Wednesday morning.

For anyone who needs help during the cold winter weather, the homeless outreach phone is monitored 24-hours a day at 250-706-7599.

“Stay indoors as much as possible,” Eva advises. “If you see anybody that looks like they are in distress and outside, call our outreach line. A lot of people who are in distress, they don’t know that there is an option for them to get help. We do have places for people to get shelter, they mustn’t feel like they need to stay out in the cold.”

This week’s cold weather also forced several outdoor recreation spots to close, cancel or reduce activities for several days. Mount Timothy Recreational Resort – which was set to be open between Boxing Day and New Year’s, was forced to close for three days due to the chilly temperatures. The 100 Mile Nordics ran at reduced hours during the cold snap, for anyone brave enough to venture out in the subzero temperatures.

The 100 Mile House Wranglers postponed their Wednesday night home game against the Chase Heat in light of the weather warnings. That game will be rescheduled, the team said.

READ MORE: Cold weather postpones Wrangler games

The week’s cold weather wasn’t limited to the South Cariboo – close to two dozen records were broken around the province on Boxing Day and Dec. 27, including in Quesnel and Bella Bella.

BC Hydro reported a record day of electricity use across the province on Dec. 27, due to the record low temperatures. Between 5 and 6 p.m. on December 27, demand for electricity hit an all-time high of 10,902 megawatts, which is higher than the previous record of 10,577 megawatts set in 2020.

In addition to the cold temperatures early in the week, a snowfall warning was issued by Environment Canada late Tuesday, forecasting snow for the 100 Mile House region with accumulations of up to 15 cm overnight Wednesday.

Some relief in the extremely cold temperatures is expected in the coming days, however, a slight increase in temperatures forecast starting Saturday, with highs of -12C and lows of -15C predicted.


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