Deep freeze: N.B. cities prepare for weekend’s extreme cold

With extreme cold temperatures expected to roll through New Brunswick and the Maritimes Friday night and Saturday, cities across the province are preparing for the cold.

The Fredericton Downtown Community Health Centre is opening a daytime warming centre that will include services to help people access permanent housing.

Joan Kingston, a nurse at the centre, said even if homeless people are able to stay in a shelter or couch surf overnight, that still leaves them with up to 13 hours out in the cold.

In Fredericton, it’s expected to feel like -44 with the wind chill Saturday morning, according to CBC meteorologist Ryan Snoddon.

Snoddon said frostbite can occur in 30 minutes or more when the wind chill is between -10 and -27 and within 10-30 minutes in -10 to -39. For those places with wind chills between -40 and -47, frostbite risk is very high at only 5-10 minutes of exposure required.

Kingston said the warming centre has enough capacity for 50 people and there will be Wi-Fi, yoga mats for resting, outreach services, and treats like hot chocolate. It will be open until the end of April.

As a nurse, Kingston said she is concerned about the possibility of frostbite for people who may end up sleeping outside. She said there’s around 70 people sleeping rough or couch surfing at the moment and more than that who are outside during the day.

“Because of the work we do with our different organizations, we know people who are sleeping rough, and we know that in the daytime, it’s difficult,” said Kingston. “We do know people that will be coming. But they have to trust the space first as well.”

Raymond Green said he’ll be visiting the centre, which is located in the former cultural market on King Street. 

Green said he’s one of the lucky ones. Despite spending the days outside, he has an apartment to stay in overnight.

He said he actually loves the winter since he’s originally from Labrador. But the extreme temperatures have him worried about his friends who spend the nights on the streets.

“I usually open my door to a few people, you know, try to get them in as much as I can,” said Green. “So that’s what I’m going to do. I’m probably going to have a crowd the next few days.”

Increased shelter capacity

In Saint John and Moncton, capacity for shelters has been expanded for this weekend to account for the cold. 

In Moncton, all of the shelters are open 24 hours a day. For Saint John, the Coverdale Centre for Women and the Outflow shelters are open 24 hours, while the Out of the Cold shelter will increase to 24-hour service until Sunday morning.

There will also be a daytime warming centre in Saint John at Stone Church on Friday and Saturday.

David Dobbelsteyn, the director of growth and community services for Saint John, said there are enough beds at shelters to accommodate everyone who needs one.

He said although the city is encouraging everyone to go to a shelter to escape the extreme cold, if someone can’t get to a shelter, the warming centre will serve as a place to stop during the cold temperatures.

Conrad Landry, Moncton fire chief and director of community safety services, said there’s space at shelters and he encourages people to use them instead of sleeping outside.

In addition to frostbite and hypothermia, Landry said there’s also a risk of starting a fire if people try to use a makeshift heating source to warm their tent.

Some of the coldest areas of the province will include Edmundston, Charlo, Campbellton and Woodstock, where the wind chill will make it feel like -46 at some points. Environment Canada warns that frostbite can occur within minutes for these regions on Friday night.

High generation demand could occur, says N.B. Power

N.B. Power spokesperson Marc Belliveau said the utility is keeping an eye on places where power outages could happen, like areas with strong winds predicted. 

But cold weather won’t typically cause outages, he said. The concern for N.B. Power is the possibility of high power demand on Saturday, said Belliveau.

“We’re ready to go and meet the demand. But we’re certainly reaching out to customers and so on and saying, ‘Look, if you can avoid doing certain things during the peak hours … it would help the generation fleet a lot here in New Brunswick.'”

He said “peak hours” are from 6 to 9 a.m. and 4 to 8 p.m. Some things that Belliveau said customers could put off during those hours would be laundry, showering or doing dishes. 

Last year, N.B. Power had a program called “Beat the Peak” to slow some of the generation demand during times when people were getting ready for school or work and getting home from work, he said.

“We’ve had some great co-operation from our clients last year, and it helps an awful lot to sort of shave off those peaks, and it helps the whole system,” said Belliveau.

“N.B. Power is owned by its clients so it’s a win-win for everybody.”



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