Extreme Cold

Staying warm and safe is important during the winter season, especially when temperatures drop below seasonal norms.

Extreme cold weather conditions are expressed as a Wind Chill Index. The Wind Chill index combines both temperature and wind speed to reflect the perceived temperature to the average person. The greater the wind speed, the lower the temperature actually feels to the body. Because the Wind Chill index considers both temperature and wind, it is a good measure of health risk. thermometer showing risk of frostbite

In addition, extreme cold temperatures can often accompany a winter storm and there may be other factors to consider, such as coping with the dangers of power failures, blizzards, and icy roads.

Environment Canada is responsible for forecasting weather conditions and issuing warnings, watches, and special weather statements when weather conditions may affect human health.

See the Understanding Winter Weather fact sheet for additional information.

Public Health Concern

Despite a rise in average global temperatures, our region is still prone to extreme cold weather events. Exposure to cold temperatures, whether in an indoor or outdoor setting, can be hazardous and potentially life-threatening.

The colder the temperature, the less time it takes to develop frostbite/frostnip and/or hypothermia. Therefore, it is important to dress appropriately or take appropriate precautions during the winter months.  

The effects of exposure to extreme cold 

The effects of exposure to extreme cold can be divided into two main categories:

  1. Frostnip and frostbite
  2. Hypothermia* 

Please see the Extreme Cold Weather fact sheet for additional information about: 

  • the effects of exposure to extreme cold
  • people at most risk of injuries from extreme cold, and
  • general tips for preventing cold-related injuries


Hypothermia is a medical emergency.

Call 911 immediately if you are caring for someone who has been exposed to cold temperatures and has a low body temperature (less than 35o C), is unconscious, shivering, confused, drowsy, or unsteady.


While waiting for help, warm the person right away by:

  • Moving them to a warm room
  • Removing any wet clothing
  • Using warm blankets, towels, wrapped hot water bottles or heating pads, or skin-to-skin contact
  • Providing warm drinks if they are awake (NO ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES)

For information about power failure in winter time, check the Winter Power Failure page.

Warming Centres warming and cooling centre symbol

Warming Centres are buildings in the region that are open to the public, and that welcome any individual inside during regular business hours to warm up during extreme cold events.

Warming Centres are located all over Waterloo Region, including Waterloo, Kitchener, Cambridge, North Dumfries, Wellesley, Wilmot and Woolwich. They consist of governmental buildings, libraries, community centres, and other recreational facilities.

Note: There is no expectation of extra amenities or services at these centres above what is regularly provided.

Region of Waterloo Public Health and Emergency Services coordinates the Warming Centres in the region and posts Warming Centre locations and hours on this page when Environment Canada issues an Extreme Cold Warning.

For Warming Centre locations and hours, click on the links below: