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Polar vortex to bring Ottawa its coldest temperatures of the season


It's about to get very cold in Ottawa as the polar vortex strengthens over our region.

When the extreme cold moves across Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada late this week, it could set records. Friday afternoon could see a high of -24 C and the coldest night of the season so far.

"There's never been, on February the third, a colder afternoon than what we're going to see on February the third this year," says Environment Canada Senior Climatologist David Phillips.

Thursday night could see a low of -28 C with a wind chill of -38. Friday night's forecast low is -27 C.

The City of Ottawa says it does not plan to open any dedicated warming centres during the cold snap, but it is offering other options.

"The City’s main administration facilities and recreation facilities remain open to the public as warm spaces, if needed," said acting manager of homelessness programs and shelters Kale Brown in a statement to CTV News Ottawa.

"The City continues to provide additional emergency shelter options (the hostel at 75 Nicholas St., Jim Durrell Arena and Dempsey Community Centre) for those experiencing homelessness to support the additional demands on the community-based shelter system."

Brown added that the city's network of outreach services will continue to work with unhoused residents to provide supplies, such as cold weather gear, and to connect to them emergency shelter facilities as needed.

The Salvation Army Booth Centre's Outreach Services Program will be out monitoring the streets in vehicles, making sure those who need help, get it.

"It's definitely an urgency to get inside when it gets super cold like this," says Mikyla Tacilauskas, Outreach Services Supervisor. "And anybody can flag us down. We just pull over, put our hazards on, and we can stop and have a conversation about what they need, how we can help them stay safe."

The Outreach Program will hand out sleeping bags, blankets and dozens of pairs of mittens and winter hats over the next few days.

Ottawa Public Health is warning residents about the risk of frostbite as the first wave of truly frigid cold moves into the city.

When watching for possible frostbite, OPH says to look for the "4 Ps":

  1. Pink - affected areas will be reddish in colour. This is the first sign of frostbite
  2. Pain - affected areas will become painful
  3. Patches - white, waxy feeling patches show up - skin is dying
  4. Pricklies - the areas will then feel numb

To prevent frostbite, it's recommended you wear additional layers, including a hat, a neck warmer, extra socks and larger mittens over your gloves. If you think frostbite might be setting in, get inside where it's warm as soon as possible.

Should frostbite set in:

  • Do not rub or massage affected areas. It may cause more damage.
  • NOT HOT - warm up the area slowly. Use a warm compresses or your own body heat to re-warm the area. Underarms are a good place.
  • If toes or feet are frostbitten, try not to walk on them.
  • Seek immediate medical attention if skin does not return to normal after being warmed up.


Dogs love being outdoors, but with the bone-chilling temperatures coming, Nadiya Safanova knows it could be harmful to her dog Charlotte.

"At -30, we have boots, dog boots, which she doesn't mind," says Safonova. "We have to keep it pretty limited, so we'll find something really active to do indoors like tug of war or just like fetch inside. When it's -30 we limit to maybe 15, 20 minutes outside."

She says Charlotte doesn't seem to mind the cold, but the frigid temperatures may keep them indoors.

"I worry about her ears, her nose, and the paws. So we try to be safe when it's that cold."

Here are some tips for animal care in cold weather from the Ottawa Humane Society:

  • Limit exposure: When the mercury plunges, exercise caution and limit your pet’s exposure to the outdoors.
  • Salt: While the salt used on roads and driveways is helpful in preventing spills, it can irritate the sensitive pads on the bottom of your pet’s feet. Keep a towel by your front door and wipe down your pooch’s paws after a walk so they aren’t tempted to lick them clean.
  • Fresh water: If you keep any water bowls outside for your animals during the winter, be sure to check the supply a few times a day to ensure it isn’t frozen over. If you are unable to provide fresh, clean water regularly throughout the day you need to provide an insulated, heated water bowl in order to keep the water from freezing. Clean, fresh snow is not an adequate replacement for water for an animal.
  • Car engines: Cats and wildlife are drawn to the heat generated by your car’s engine on cold days. Make sure you bang on your car’s hood to avoid injuring a sleeping creature.
  • Antifreeze: The taste of antifreeze is tasty to many animals, and they’ll readily consume it if given the chance. But even a small amount of antifreeze can be harmful, or even fatal, to your pet. When adding antifreeze to your vehicle, pour carefully and clean up any spills that may occur. It’s also a good idea to check that your car isn’t leaking fluid. A quick look under the hood will help keep your own animals, and those in the neighbourhood, safe.

The humane society also urges pet owners to ensure their pets are wearing collars with tags and are microchipped in case they run away. It's a troubling thing any time of year, but especially when temperatures plunge. Top Stories

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