City of Prince Rupert reminds business owners to clear the snow and ice from their frontages - even the local media is not exempt. Melissa Boutilier of the Northern View clears snow near the media office on Fraser Street. (K-J Millar / The Northern View)

Cold snaps all weather records in Prince Rupert

Coldest day of the Year? No. Coldest Day of the decade? No. Coldest day of the century? Maybe…

Prince Rupert hasn’t been immune to the Arctic outflow that has gripped much of western Canada this week.

On Tuesday, Prince Rupert’s normally mild winter temperatures plummeted to as low as -13.7C. In fact, Jan. 12, 2020 was the coldest day since 1950 when a temperature of -16.1C was recorded. The coldest day on record with Environment Canada was Jan. 23, 1916 when the mercury dipped to -21.1C.

Weatherbase, an online weather agency, however, reports the lowest temperature ever recorded in Prince Rupert was -24.4C also in January, but did not indicate which year or weather station the temperature was recorded.

While it may not have been the coldest few days ever in Prince Rupert, the 2020 Arctic outflow did wreak havoc on a city relatively unfamiliar with the bite of a prairie-like winter, even putting one person in a wheelchair.

“It was sheer ice and I stepped off the crosswalk and slipped and fell and split my ankle,” Tanya Jensen said of her walk on Third Ave. “It will take six weeks to heal, so I’m having a struggle getting around in the wheelchair with the sidewalks being the way they are. Some women with their kids can’t even get around with their strollers and have to go on the roads. It’s very dangerous.”

READ MORE: 10 B.C. cities break temperature records in winter storm

Veronika Stewart, communications manager for the City of Prince Rupert, said the city has had more staff come in for snow and ice control.

“Emergency and transit routes are targeted first. We do our best to address other areas and sidewalks in priority,” she said. “We encourage residents to be snow angels by helping their neighbours. Residents are responsible for areas around their homes. Businesses are responsible for their frontages. It’s a joint effort. We are encouraging everyone to stay safe.”

Northern Health’s Eryn Collins said despite the cold snap, they are not actively tracking any uptick in weather-related issues.

BC Emergency Health Services reported that call volume is definitely higher. However, the dispatch centre in Kamloops, (which covers the northern half of the province as well as the Interior) isn’t reporting any spikes in medical emergency calls related to the current cold snap.

“We are busy for sure,” Corrine Begg, manager of the Kamloops Dispatch Operations Centre, said.

Begg noted when the roads get bad, more people will call for an ambulance rather than try and drive themselves to hospital.

While homeless shelter operators and the RCMP did not immediately respond to requests for update on emergency services or for homeless people in the city, Lt. Sabrina Silvey of the Prince Rupert Salvation Army said there has been an increase during the past two weeks at their soup kitchen and food bank, now averaging more than 200 meals each day.

“Through the food bank we hand out clothing vouchers, so if anyone needed jackets, shoes, gloves, hats and blankets they can visit the thrift store,” she said.

“We have seen an increase in winter clothing being provided. Anyone who needs assistance is welcome. We are open for anyone.”

There has been an uptick in plumbing service calls as well.

Don Lennon, manager at Saanich Plumbing, said homeowners are also experiencing many woes from the weather.

“We are crazy busy,” he said, explaining that the business has seen a 25 per cent increase since the temperature dropped due to frozen pipes.

“When it’s extra cold outside there’s no doubt about it pipes will freeze here,” Lennon said. “People here don’t construct homes like they would in, let’s say Prince George or somewhere else where people are used to this kind of weather.”

Lennon said his advice for homeowners would be to keep water in the faucet running to avoid pipes from freezing.

READ MORE: Tuesday night’s extreme cold ‘bottomed out the mercury’ at -50C or more in remote Chilcotin

The one facet of Rupert life that is taking the brunt of the cold is on the streets.

Ely Abecia, owner and instructor of Rainbow Driving School in Prince Rupert said drivers need to use common sense in winter conditions. Abecia, who has owned the driving school for more than 15 years, said that in his 42 years of living in Prince Rupert he has seen conditions like this less than ten times.

The weather conditions over the past two weeks are not common Abecia said and with the thick slush and compacted snow covering ice layers, drivers just need to slow down.

“You already know it’s slippery, so use common sense and drive for the conditions, “ he said.

Environment Canada’s forecast beginning Jan. 16 and continuing throughout the weekend for Prince Rupert is signalling a return to more normal North Coast temperatures — above freezing with rain rather than snow.

– with files from Jenna Cocullo

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