Extreme cold

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Be prepared for extreme cold in Kelowna

Keep yourself and your family safe during extreme cold. It is easy to quickly suffer the effects of the cold if you are outside in wet, cold and windy weather. Exposure to cold temperatures can lead to frostbite or hypothermia.  Winter weather conditions can quickly become dangerous with little or no warning. 

Environment and Climate Change Canada issues a variety of severe winter weather alerts that can notify you about hazardous winter conditions. 

How to prepare:  

Depending on what sort of transportation you rely on for travel, and where you reside, your winter weather preparation plan may look different.  

  • Wear proper clothing to prevent cold injury
    • Ensure you have a hat, a scarf or something warm over your face, and gloves. 
    • Layers of clothing will keep you warm, with a wind and waterproof outer layer to stay dry. 
    • Wear wool or synthetic socks and waterproof boots that fit well. Cotton socks do not dry quickly. 
  • Prepare for longer outdoor wait times if you rely on public transit for your transportation. During a snow event, the road network may become congested and result in unexpected schedule changes. 
  • Pack blankets and other items to keep you warm in your vehicle. If you are unexpectedly in your automobile for a longer than expected period, you could become cold quickly. 
  • Prepare for alternative heat and power sources should your home lose electricity in winter storms. 

Extreme weather response for outdoor sheltering: 

People experiencing homelessness face increased risk of direct health impacts from weather hazards because they are likely to spend long periods of time outside, resulting in increased exposure. The City actively works with community outreach agencies to mitigate the risks and impacts to those who are sheltering outdoors in winter weather conditions.

The City of Kelowna’s Extreme Weather Response Protocol has two levels that are activated when the following weather conditions are met, generally for two or more successive days: 

Level 1 ResponseActivated when the temperature and/or wind chill falls between 0C to -9C, there is any accumulation of snow, and the rain makes it difficult to keep dry.
Level 2 ResponseActivated when the temperature and/or wind chill are at or below -10C, there is a significant accumulation of snow, precipitation makes it difficult to keep dry, and there is a severe wind warning.  

Level 1 Response
(Environment Canada forecast of “feels like” between 0C and -9C for 2+ successive nights) 

  • If needed, front line agencies will seek out those sheltering outdoors to provide warming supplies, assist individuals to access available shelter beds, or engage emergency health services if required. 
  • Bylaw and RCMP adopt a compassionate, life and safety focus by using discretion respecting individuals sheltering in public spaces. 

Level 2 Response
(Environment Canada forecast of “feels like” -10C and colder for 2+ successive nights) 

  • Front line agencies and outreach partners will proactively seek out people sheltering outdoors to conduct wellness checks, distribute warming supplies, and provide transportation to indoor warming areas. 
  • Enables the RCMP to provide additional abilities to support individuals at risk to access shelters and/or hospital or other emergency services through the Assistance to Shelter Act. 
  • Warming busses will be activated to shelter those who remain outside, and portable thermal shelters will be deployed at the designated overnight sheltering site. 

Additional resources:

Extreme cold FAQ
Who is most susceptible to health risks from cold weather conditions?

According to Health Canada, those most at risk during cold weather conditions are: 

  • people who are marginally housed  
  • people who work outdoors 
  • people living in homes that are poorly insulated (with no heat or no power) 
  • people with certain medical conditions such as diabetes, peripheral neuropathy, and diseases affecting the blood vessels, and taking certain medications including beta-blockers  
  • winter sport enthusiasts 
  • infants and young children 
  • people aged 65 years and older 
What are some of the symptoms of hypothermia to watch for?

There are three stages of hypothermia. Here are the key warning signs for each stage: 

  • Shivering 
  • Grogginess 
  • Poor judgment or confused thinking 
  • Violent shivering 
  • Inability to think or pay attention 
  • Slow, shallow breathing 
  • Slurred speech 
  • Poor body coordination 
  • Loss of consciousness 
  • Little or no breathing 
  • Weak, irregular, or non-existent pulse