UPDATED: Working with the uncommon cold

And now a brief word about the weather: $#&*!

And now a few more words about the work that goes on despite the weather.

“The weather is on everyone’s mind these days, and it’s front and centre on our mind, too,” said Adam Laughlin, the City of Edmonton’s interim City Manager.

“Keeping people warm, keeping people moving, keeping vehicles and furnaces going, keeping doors open—this is the work that is going on across the city, including the City of Edmonton where remarkable people are doing remarkable work in remarkable winter-city conditions. We thank them for the commitment and we thank Edmontonians for their patience.”

Update: Vulnerable Edmontonians

The City announced today that with temperatures expected to warm, Commonwealth Community Recreation Centre will serve as a temporary, overnight homeless shelter until the morning of Monday, January 20.

“Many Edmontonians experiencing homelesness have made use of the shelter, some have stayed multiple evenings, some have stayed once or twice,” said Christel Kjenner, the City’s Director of Housing and Homelessness.

“During the course of the week we served numerous couples who wanted to stay together. We also had folks with pets turn up and seek shelter, which we provided. We were also able to provide a reduced-barrier environment for people who had other challenges to accessing traditional shelters, like shopping carts or a lot of personal belongings that may not always be able to be accommodated.”

Since the facility opened as a severe weather shelter on Jan. 9, 615 individuals have been welcomed.

The City is a member of the Homeward-Trust led Winter Emergency Response Committee responsible for community activation when severe weather conditions trigger the emergency weather protocol.

Kjenner, Edmonton City Hall

City staff reacted to an increased number of shelter stayers, bringing in an overnight paramedic to respond to cases of frostbite in the last few days.

The shelter will be open between 10 p.m. on Sunday, January 19 and 7 a.m. on Monday, January 20.

Update: Bringing the heat on 34th Avenue

For the second night in a row, City LRT track crews repaired a crack in the steel rail caused by the severe cold.

This time they brought some extra help, in the shape of a 700,000-BTU-emitting portable heater.

“Our crew worked straight through the night from about 7 p.m. until 2 a.m.,” said Trevor Dennehy, General Supervisor of Transit Facilities.

“We learned some valuable lessons from the repair the night before, and we weren’t leaving until the job was done. The team stepped up again, dug in and pushed through to ensure the LRT was operating smoothly in the morning.”

Rail crack caused by severe cold

Crack repair team

Dennehy speaks to Edmonton news media, January 15, 2002

The work at 34th Avenue reprised work done the night before on a piece of weather-cracked LRT rail near Southgate Centre.

Dennehy said that these cracks are rare.

“It was extremely challenging…for our staff in temperatures that are nearly -40,” said Dennehy.

“It’s been 10 years since we’ve seen a crack like this.”

Northbound and southbound trains took turns on the same piece of track to keep customers moving while crews worked.

With tripled-up gloves, micro-breaks in a warm truck and innovative ways to warm cold hands with exhaust from equipment, crews got the job done by mid-morning.

“We have an excellent team,” said Dennehy, adding that workers manually operated the crossing arms to keep everyone safe.

A permanent repair will be completed in the spring.


Crews have applied more than 8,550 tonnes of sand since January 8.

“Our crews have been applying sand and chip for traction day and night, making multiple passes over the same areas as sand is pushed or moved off the roads by wind and traffic itself,” said Andrew Grant, the City’s General Supervisor of Infrastructure Field Operations.

“We’re working 24/7 to combat icy conditions through the deep freeze.”
Extreme cold can limit the effectiveness of the tools crews use.

When temperatures are this cold, salt cannot effectively melt ice so crews focus on improving traction with a sand/chip mixture.


Snow leopard

Animals at the Edmonton Valley Zoo who prefer warmer weather were moved inside as soon as the temperatures started dropping overnight in the fall. Others, including the lynx, snow leopards, reindeer and Arctic wolves, who thrive in the cold, are in their outdoor habitats as usual.

“The safety of our animals is a top priority” said Wade Krasnow, Animal Care Team Lead. “We ensure that all animals have a shelter away from the wind, with extra bedding to keep warm. We also increase their diets to ensure they have enough nutrients and calories to keep warm.”

Express buses

In this weather, Edmonton Transit Service express buses make all stops, with the exception of routes 15, 100, 133, 747 and all regional routes.

Churchill LRT

At 2:30 a.m. Wednesday morning, a water main at Churchill LRT Station broke due to the extreme cold.

Bee-Clean Building Maintenance was on the spot, ensuring the station was clean and safe by the time LRT passengers started arriving.

Churchill Station is a major LRT passenger interchange point. The quick work prevented passengers from taking detours to the trains.


In this weather, transit enforcement is focused on ensuring safety and access to service. This issue came to light earlier this week when an online photo of transit peace officers talking with an LRT rider was misinterpreted to mean the person was being given a ticket.

Buildings and other machines

The photo above, captured earlier this week by electrician Ron Bourget, captures the at-times uneasy relationship between severe weather and machinery, and the human expertise needed to keep things humming.
The shot shows Don Gagne, a member of the West Electrical Team, on the roof of Centennial Garage on his way to inspect a giant air unit.
Gagne’s work is emblematic.

City staff work to ensure City facilities and vehicles are well-maintained, safe, reliable, and clean. Whether through rain, snow, or cold weather, employees do their best to keep vehicles such as buses, waste/recycling trucks, snow plows, and emergency vehicles safe and running, and buildings clean and functioning properly.

Thanks for reading.

Thanks for watching out for each other.

Please remember, dial 211 (option 3) if you see a person in distress.

Stay warm.