Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Coldest December in decade brings grief

Record CAA call volume; MPI swamped with claims

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DECEMBER'S bone-chilling temperatures are the coldest the city has experienced in more than a decade.

The unusually cold weather has brought on a number of headaches for Manitobans. Manitoba has recorded the highest number of December service calls in Canadian Automobile Association history and many more collision claims with Manitoba Public Insurance than in recent years.

This December isn't the coldest in Winnipeg's history -- that honour goes to December 1879 when the average temperature dipped to -26 C -- but it's been the coldest December since 2000, said meteorologist Dale Marciski.

The month's average temperature so far has been -20 C. In 2000, the average temperature was two degrees colder.

Tib Pereira has been working overtime during the holidays as a battery-service technician for CAA. He's been boosting cars in what's been the company's busiest December ever.

As of Monday, the company had responded to more than 18,400 service calls in the last 30 days and was expecting 1,100 calls Monday alone.

Pereira said he's accustomed to the cold after four years spent working outside.

"It slows you down a bit when you're in the middle of a job and you have to stop to warm up your hands... You have to spend a fortune on warm boots and warm gloves," he said, adding the costs are mostly covered by CAA.

So far this month, MPI has received 16,779 collision claims -- about 1,500 more than last year at this time -- and the month is not over.

MPI spokesman Brian Smiley said weather has definitely been a factor in the increase of claims.

"The roads have been treacherous. There's been a lot of ice and snow and it's reflected in the collision count," he said.

Marciski said a whopping 40 centimetres of snow have blanketed the city this December, compared with 23 cm of snowfall in December 2012.

Regardless of the weather, the people of Winnipeg are still working outdoors and making the best of frigid conditions.

Window-installation teams are among those trying to keep warm on the job.

"When it's 35 below out we don't have the same pace, so we're not working at the same speed we would without the cold... but it's manageable," said Tim Dudeck, general manager and co-owner of Paramount Windows.

Dudeck commended his team for their perseverance despite the cold.

"They're pretty hearty individuals," he said of his crew. Claire MacKay, vice-president of marketing and communications at The Forks, expects Winnipeggers will remain resilient today, despite a wind chill of -51 forecast by Environment Canada on Tuesday night.

The Forks' annual festivities are still a go, with the fireworks showcase set for 10 p.m.

"The Forks Market will be open to pop in and get a hot chocolate and mini-doughnuts to warm up," MacKay said.

National weather specialist David Phillips said although Winnipeg's clearly the coldest city of its size in Canada, citizens should look on the bright side.

"The good news for Winnipeggers is that there's somebody else somewhere in Canada that's more cold than you are," said Phillips, citing Thompson (with a December average of -28 C) and Brandon (-22 C) as examples.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 31, 2013 A4


Updated on Tuesday, December 31, 2013 at 6:26 AM CST: adds photo

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