Toronto, Hamilton issue extreme cold weather alert

Toronto, Hamilton issue extreme cold weather alert
Toronto, Hamilton issue extreme cold weather alert
A woman walks in downtown Toronto on Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2015. (Frank Gunn / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

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With temperatures expected to dip down to -15 Celsius Sunday night, both Toronto’s and Hamilton’s chief medical officers of health have issued 2016’s  first cold weather alerts.

In Toronto, the alert means there will be extra services for homeless people in the city, including two 24-hour drop-ins, additional shelter beds, TTC tokens for people to get to shelter, increased street outreach, and a request to shelters to relax their service restrictions.

The City of Hamilton says its public health department issues cold alerts when the temperature is expected to drop below -15 C, or -20 C with wind chill. The temperature in Hamilton is expected to reach -14 overnight, with the windchill dropping to -24. The cold snap should last until Tuesday.

During an extreme cold weather alert, members of the public are encouraged to:

  • dress in layers, making sure their outer layer is windproof, and cover exposed skin
  • wear a hat, warm mittens or gloves, and warm boots
  • stay dry, as the risk of hypothermia increases when we are wet
  • choose wool or synthetic fabrics for your clothes instead of cotton, because cotton can get wet
  • seek shelter if you normally spend long periods outside. Depending on the wind chill, exposed skin can freeze in minutes
  • consider rescheduling outdoor activities, or limiting time outdoors, especially if it’s windy
  • heat your home to at least 21 C if babies or elderly people are present
  • avoid alcohol as it increases blood flow.

Toronto’s medical officer of health, Dr. David McKeown, warns that the cold can be dangerous to those with heart or respiratory conditions, the elderly, children and those who work outdoors.

“Exposure to cold weather can be harmful to your health. Hypothermia occurs when the body’s core temperature drops below 35 C and can have severe consequences, including organ failure and death. Frostnip and frostbite can also occur in cold weather when skin freezes,” his office said in a statement Sunday morning.

People with heart problems can experience worsening of their conditions up to several days after cold weather occurs.

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