Merritt recorded its coldest Jan. 18 on record when the high reached a bone-chilling -21 C.
The chill shattered the old Jan. 18 record set in 1996 when the mercury dipped to -10.5 C. Environment Canada has kept weather records in Merritt since 1968.
David Jones, Environment Canada meteorologist for Merritt, said the temperature is expected to be more seasonal in the coming weeks.
“We experienced our first real Arctic outbreak,” he said, noting Merritt usually battles through two or three cold spells each winter. “This is quite late to be receiving the first major cold spell.”
Wednesday not only marked the the coldest Jan. 18 ever, it was also one of the coldest days in January on record. The most frigid came on Jan. 29, 1969, when the high was -27.2 C.
Jones said this year’s late dip in temperatures is no indication of whether residents will experience a late spring.
“It varies so much from year-to-year,” he said. “Even though temperatures were above average for most of the winter so far, we don’t know what will happen come spring.”
The normal temperature for this time of year is a high of 0 C and a low of -8 C.
CAN COWS HANDLE THE COLD WEATHER?
With temperatures plummeting to the mid -20 C for several days last week, local ranchers were taking some precautions.
But according to a rancher from Kane Lake Ranch, cattle are more at risk during typical Merritt winter temperatures that hover around freezing.
“When the weather is just above freezing and raining out, the cattle get wet, and then they can really suffer when the temperature dips below freezing overnight,” rancher John Anderson said.
He said between one and two percent of calves die in the spring, just after weaning, if they get wet and then face freezing temperatures overnight.
“In this weather, they pretty much just huddle together to keep warm,” he said of the cold. “They have four stomachs that are pretty much working constantly. That generates a lot of energy and helps keep them warm.”
Anderson ensures food is topped off and he takes some of the older cows and places them with the majority of the food alongside the calves.
He also lays out mulch that he purchases from a local mill. The wood debris provides bedding for the cows to protect them from the frozen ground.
But with this week’s temperatures set to stay around freezing and with the possibility of rain, Anderson is more concerned about the cows now.
“It’s like when you wear a coat in plus-one-degree temperature and it gets wet. You’re much colder than if you were dry,” he added.