An Extreme Cold Warning has been issued for a large part of B.C.’s interior, including Merritt and the Nicola Valley. Officials are calling for wind chill values near or below minus 35, and advising residents to stay warm, and stay home where possible.

The cold front is expected to persist until the afternoon, when temperatures will begin to rise slightly. Individuals and families are reminded of the health risks associated with extreme cold, including an elevated risk of frost bite and hypothermia. Common side effects to watch for are shortness of breath, chest pain, muscle pain and weakness, numbness, and colour change in fingers and toes.

“A very cold arctic air mass has settled over the region,” said a release by Environment Canada. “Wind chill values at or below minus 35 will continue this morning.”

Officials are also reminding the public of the health risks to pets brought on by the colder temperatures.

“If it’s too cold for you to stay outside, it’s too cold for your pet to stay outside.”

The Nicola Valley Community Shelter, located at 2350 Voght Street, is a 30 bed emergency shelter offering daily meals, showers, beds, and storage lockers. Along with it, a 24 hour warming centre has been opened at 2038 Nicola Avenue, offering a space to warm up from the frigid temperatures. The programs are both funded by the province through BC Housing, bolstered by community donations.