COLIN CORNEAU/BRANDON SUN
Joaquin Pena bundles up against the cold while working on a construction site in the city's southwest corner. Those who make their living outdoors are working extra hard to stay warm.
Even Joaquin Pena’s heavy duty boots, insulated work pants and down parka are sometimes no match for winter’s fury.
"You have to be wearing the right equipment to be working in this weather," Pena said while working outside on a job site in Brandon on Tuesday afternoon. "It’s not really bad but some days like today are really cold."
Pena has been working for J&G Homes for five years and is no stranger to working in rough winter conditions. To keep warm, Pena said he and his crew often set up multiple heaters and make sure they take breaks throughout the day.
"When the weather is extreme like today, we work just 20 minutes, we have to go heat up the gloves and warm up a bit and then get back to work," he said. "If not you can get really frozen."
Brandon dipped to a low of -38.7 C at 6 a.m. on Dec. 31 — a new record for the day, and a few tenths of a degree colder than last Monday, making it the coldest temperature recorded in Brandon in nearly a decade.
By late afternoon on Tuesday, temperatures reached -38 C and -51 C with the windchill, according to Environment Canada.
The last time temperatures were this low was on Jan. 28, 2004, when it dropped to -40.1 C.
Cold temperatures and recent snowfalls have also wrecked havoc on the city’s snow-clearing budget.
"Overall, we’ve probably overspent compared to previous years," Ian Broome, the city’s director of public works said.
To help offset costs, Broome said the city has made reductions in a number of public works departments which include sanitation, sewer and water, landfill and the city’s general utility fund. Between those and other city department reductions, Broome said they hope to balance out the snow-clearing budget. But the cost of operators, sanding trucks, extra equipment and cleanup crews to haul away snow gathering on city streets adds up quickly, he said.
"We have to haul snow away from downtown, we’ll have to haul snow away from school areas once it gets to be a concern," he said. "The snow affects visibility, so we address those issues as soon as we can so people can make a turn properly without jeopardizing their safety."
As of Tuesday afternoon, crews were still in the process of cleaning up snow left behind after Saturday’s storm. Residential streets will be evaluated next week in preparation for more road cleanup because "some areas are definitely worse than others," Broome said.
December’s cold temperatures also dealt sanding trucks an unfair hand. The colder the weather, the icier the roads, making it difficult for the city’s sand and salt mixture to stick to them, Broome said.
"We get a lot of complaints where people say we haven’t even been there when we have been there."
Snow and ice buildup on area streets have created dangerous ruts, something Broome said they will also be cleaning up next week.
Throughout December, the temperature in Brandon averaged around -22 C, making it the coldest December since 2000.
The coldest it’s ever been on Dec. 31 was Tuesday morning as temperatures hit an uncomfortably cold -37.8 C. The previous record was set at -38.3 C in 1967.
Prior to that, a previous weather station near here recorded -41.1 C in 1946. The warmest ever was in 1953, when it was 3.9 C.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition January 2, 2014