A deep chill is settling in over much of Eastern Canada this week, with temperatures dipping as low as -40C in some places and wind-chill and snowfall warnings dotting much of the map.
Even Toronto, which just last week was experiencing a January thaw of above-zero temperatures, has declared an extreme cold weather alert for the week, adding 172 shelter spaces for homeless people looking to get out of the cold as the mercury hovers below -10C, and dips to -20C with the windchill factor.
But there is nothing abnormal about these temperatures, meteorologists say.
"I enjoy when we get a wake-up call like this, and we've been seduced into thinking we'd never see a cold day. Winter is who we are," Environment Canada senior climatologist David Phillips said Tuesday. "This is a pretty rugged kind of a cold snap that has been missing in action for two years."
Cities and communities across eastern Canada, from the Maritimes to southern Ontario, joined western Canada this week in the deep chill of winter -- something the Prairies have been dealing with since Halloween, Phillips said.
Communities in southwestern Ontario, including London, Sarnia and St. Thomas, issued cold-weather alerts Tuesday, and Environment Canada said snow squall warnings remained in effect Tuesday for parts of southern Ontario.
Much of northern Ontario remains under windchill warnings, including Sudbury, where the windchill was expected to plunge the mercury to -40C, Timmins, Moosonee and Attawapiskat, where the windchill was expected to drop the temperature to close to -45C.
Most of southern, western and parts of eastern Quebec, including Montreal and Quebec City, are also locked down under a windchill warning.
Phillips stressed that the cold temperatures shouldn't be dismissed, but taken for what they are: cold days at the end of January, which is statistically the coldest time of the year for eastern Canada.
"It's not dismissing it, it's just saying that, hey, this is Canada, and it's about time and we've got it and it'll be hanging out for about three or four days," Phillips said. "And the next cold wave will be a cinch. The first one is always the toughest."
The cold extends south of the border, with the windchill making it feel as low as -46C in Minnesota and northern Wisconsin. Winds blasting south over the Great Lakes resulted in up to 46 cm of snow in northeast Ohio, northwest Pennsylvania and upstate New York.