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Brace yourself, Alberta: Winter weather is coming fast and fierce

We all knew the balmy, snow-less conditions would end eventually. Albertans will soon face the brutal shock of more seasonable winter weather.

“Enjoy today because we’re in for a cold snap next week,” Global News meteorologist Tiffany Lizee said on Friday.

On Saturday in Edmonton, the temperature will be in the minus single digits but with winds of up to 15 km/h, it will feel closer to -20 in the morning and -12 in the afternoon.

By Sunday, the daytime high is set to be – 16 C and overnight a low in the -20s. Come next week, the temperatures will drop to the -30s.

It’s still several days out, but already Environment Canada says mid-week could mean a daytime high of -31 C.

It’ll be a similar story in Calgary, although the temperatures won’t be quite as frigid. On Saturday, the wind chill will make it feel like -10 with overnight lows of -14 C to -16 C.

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By mid-week in Calgary, the city will experience daytime highs of around – 20 C and lows closer to – 30 C.

Not only will the temperatures drop, but a low-pressure system will push snow into the province.

An area of heavy snowfall will move through parts of central and southern Alberta over the weekend, Environment Canada said, with most regions seeing some snow by Sunday.

Calgary is expected to receive a few centimetres and Edmonton should see some flurries, while Environment Canada predicted five to 10 centimetres will fall over portions of the mountain parks and foothills.

“That low will pull cold, Arctic air down into the province and we’ll stay below freezing as we kick off the week. Then another low rolls through Tuesday, bringing more snow and even colder air,” Lizee said.

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Click to play video: 'Alberta’s yo-yoing temperatures a literal headache for many'

Alberta’s yo-yoing temperatures a literal headache for many

Looking ahead, the forecast shows temperatures staying below seasonal for the next couple of weeks, she added.

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This time of year, Calgary typically sees daytime temperatures between -3 C and -16 C, while Edmonton experiences averages of between -8 C and -19 C, according to Environment Canada.

With the weather set to turn, roads will no longer be bare so Alberta RCMP issued a warning Friday. It’s been a minute since we experienced true winter weather and some Albertans may need a reminder to adjust their behaviour accordingly.

“Winter driving can be a white-knuckle ride. Snow, ice and long, dark nights all pose challenges to those behind the wheel. Whether you operate a car, truck or snowmobile, winter driving requires special attention,” a statement from police said.

Be prepared and use caution when snow covers the roads, police added.

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I can feel it in my bones: How the cold can impact your health

For some Albertans, the yo-yoing weather means being prepared by plugging in their vehicles and planning their transit trips a little more carefully to avoid long waits in the cold.

But for others, the weather can bring with it a range of aches, pains and in some cases, debilitating headaches.

Emergency and preventative medicine physician Dr. Louis Francescutti told Global News in a previous interview there’s enough scientific evidence accumulated over the years to back up the connection.

“You’ve probably heard your grandparents say, ‘I can tell when a storm is coming because my joints are going to hurt,’ and there’s some truth to that,” he said last year.

Conditions such as migraines, headaches, joint pains, and even blood pressure can be affected by high and low pressure systems, Francescutti said.

Click to play video: 'Too cold for an outdoor workout? How to exercise indoors'

Too cold for an outdoor workout? How to exercise indoors

Francescutti said the medical theory is that changes in barometric pressure cause joints to expand within their closed compartments, putting pressure on the nerve endings and in turn, causing pain.

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“It’s going to change the composition of the tension and the fluidity within the joints.”

The veteran Alberta physician said some ways to mitigate the impact include being well-hydrated, rested, exercising regularly and eating properly.

“If it’s a case of a patient with migraine, make sure you have your medication. And if you need to take the medication prophylactically, then you can do that,” he said.

Wind chill & frostbite concerns

While no alerts have been released so far, Environment Canada issues extreme cold warnings when very cold temperatures or windchill create an elevated risk to health such as frostbite, hypothermia, heart attacks and cardiac arrest.

There are different criteria for what constitutes an emergency cold in each part of the country.

“We issue the extreme cold warnings in Alberta for temperatures or wind chills at -40 and it’s -40 for the entire province — which is different than a number of other places, not only in the country, but in the Prairies,” Natalie Hasell, a warning preparedness meteorologist with the national weather agency, previously told Global News.

When the wind chill approaches -40 or lower, Hasell said frostbite can set in on exposed skin in as little as five to 10 minutes.

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“Yeah, -40 to -47 is considered a very high risk — exposed skin can freeze in five to 10 minutes.

Click to play video: 'Recognizing the signs of frostbite and hypothermia'

Recognizing the signs of frostbite and hypothermia

Risks are greater for young children, older adults, people with chronic illnesses, people working or exercising outdoors and those without proper shelter.

Medical conditions like diabetes, nerve damage or issues with circulation can make people less likely to notice of they are suffering from the cold.

If it’s too cold for you to stay outside, it’s too cold for your pet to stay outside, Environment Canada said.

When going outside, people are advised to wear layers and protect exposed skin with gloves, a toque and a scarf.  Boots should be waterproof, and it’s recommended people wear two or three layers of pants and shirts.

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Also, keep moving when you’re outside in -30 C.

“If you are waiting for that bus, don’t just stand there. At least pace around a little bit. Keep or help your body to generate some heat,” Hasell said.

If it’s some consolation, the weather is set to turn across the rest of Canada as well.

Global News chief meteorologist Anthony Farnell says after seeing the warmest December on record across the country, January is bringing a change in pattern.

“It’s going to start in the West, that’s where the cold and snow begins, but then I think as the month progresses, we’re going to see widespread cold and snowy conditions across much of the country,” he said this week.

Stay warm, Alberta — spring is many, many months away.

Want your weather on the go? Download Global News’ Skytracker weather app for iPhone, iPad and Android.

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