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Canadians tested as cold snap grips country

Canadians tested as cold snap grips countryA sidewalk plow works near the Nova Scotia legislature in blizzard conditions in Halifax on Friday, Jan. 3, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

Canadians are accustomed to cold weather to the point where many take pride in knowing that their particular region is colder then another.

But that perverse pleasure is being tested as below-normal temperatures and dangerous wind chills continue to grip much of the country.

In Alberta, where some eastern parts of the province remained under a wind chill advisory Sunday, Calgary city councillor Sean Chu set off a storm of controversy on the weekend with a tweet suggesting the intense cold cast doubt about global warming.

In Winnipeg, where it was —30 C on Sunday with a wind chill that made it feel like —44 C, the weather kept people away from the normally busy outdoor skating rinks.

Roy Laham, owner of Iceland Skate Rentals at The Forks, said he had about 20 customers on Sunday.

That compared to a typical weekend day where he said he would see 200 to 300 people.

"Just the die-hards are coming out. They're all bundled up but they're skating," Laham said.

"If they're continuously moving, the body seems to stay warm. It's just the skin that's exposed that you have to be careful about," he continued.

"It's a good idea to skate with a partner. That way they can look at you and tell you if you're getting frostbite."

Laham said the deep freeze would actually be good for the Red River Trail, Winnipeg's famous skating trail along the Red and Assiniboine Rivers. The trail hasn't opened yet, which Laham said is due to all the recent snow which must be cleared from the ice.

Chu's Twitter comment, meanwhile, about whether the cold snap was evidence against global warming was quickly rebuffed by many. Others lauded it.

The comment noted that "global warming alarmists" were quiet about the Calgary weather, as well as stories about two icebreakers trapped in pack ice off the coast of Antarctica.

"Is it b/c the weather's been so freaking cold?" Chu asked in the tweet.

Residents across the Prairies were being warned to bundle up as the extreme wind chill values could bring on frostbite on exposed skin in just five to 10 minutes.

Environment Canada predicted temperatures would climb significantly in Alberta on Monday, while relief in Saskatchewan and Manitoba would happen gradually through the week.

In Ontario, there was a brief respite from arctic temperatures over the weekend, but the mercury was expected to plummet once again by Monday evening.

A snowstorm was predicted to strike southeast of Lake Huron and Georgian Bay on Sunday evening and expected to usher in bitterly cold winds. Environment Canada warned the system would likely bring "some of the coldest air in years," leading to "record-shattering cold."

Already, wind chill warnings were in effect Sunday in northwestern Ontario, where icy winds were said to feel like -35 C to -45 C.

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