Science, Tech & Environment

What's a deep freeze for the US is just another day in northern Canada

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Cold temperatures are the norm at this Arctic hockey rink in Yellowknife, Canada.

Parts of the US are experiencing record-breaking low temperatures as a polar vortex brings bitterly cold weather to a big swath of central North America.

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(This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the audio to hear it.)

A winter storm has already blanketed areas of Canada and the northeastern US with up to two feet of snow. Many Americans have never experienced such conditions — and certainly not in decades.

But in northern Canada, cold weather like this is the norm.

"Frostbite is pretty much a common occurrence up here because it can happen in as little as two minutes when you are outside," said CBC North meteorologist Christy Climenhaga. "So really avoiding any exposed skin is the way to go. When I go outside, I'm not just putting on two layers, I'm putting four or five on."

Climenhaga monitors weather conditions from Yellowknife, the capital of the Northwest Territories. The region is subarctic and the average temperature in January is around −15 degrees Fahrenheit.

So touching metal without gloves is a no-no.

"It will probably feel like touching a hot iron," Climenhaga said. "It's definitely painful. It's funny, when you get to these temperatures, that cold period when you're feeling chilly doesn't happen. It's immediate from feeling fine, to feeling pain, to not feeling pain — and that's bad."

The current deep freeze in the US has disrupted flights, with thousands of cancellations over the past few days, and closed hundreds of schools. Power outages have been reported and there's been havoc on icy roads. The National Weather Service described the weather as "life-threatening" and "the coldest temperatures in almost two decades."

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