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Intense cold


During the wintertime, Montrealers often face periods of intense cold – periods where temperatures are below average. Such periods are often caused by wind chill involving the combined effect of temperature and wind.

The risk of frostbite begins when temperatures reach -27 ºC without wind or -15 ºC with winds of 30 km/h and higher.

Health Canada says that the risk of frostbite is higher when the wind chill factor goes below -27ºC. Prolonged exposure to low temperatures is a health risk (frostbite, hypothermia, etc.).

Preparing and protecting yourself

Risks in Montréal

Montréal has braved many episodes of intense cold in its history. The record was set in 1957, when temperatures below -38 ºC were recorded in Montréal. In the wintertime, wind has a major impact on how cold it feels. In 1976, the temperature with the wind chill factor in Montréal was -49ºC.

In 2004, an intense cold wave hit Québec in mid-January. High temperatures were lower than -20 °C and temperatures with wind chill, between -38 à -52. A number of records were broken during that period (source, Météo Média).

According to meteorologists, extreme weather patterns are part of climate change, in particular constantly changing winter temperatures. Periods of intense cold can have major impacts on the health and safety of Montrealers: hypothermia, frostbite, electric outages, cars that won’t start, etc.

In collaboration with its partners, the Centre de sécurité civile is working to implement a special response plan for episodes of extreme cold.

Impact on the population and at-risk persons

  • Direct effects: hypothermia, frostbite
  • Indirect effects: electric outages, cars that won’t start, colds and flu

Who is at risk?

  • Seniors
  • Homeless people
  • Young children
  • Handicapped people
  • People who work outside
  • People who live in poorly insulated houses or buildings