Rankin Inlet, Nunavut gets cold in the winter. Located on the northwestern shore of the Hudson Bay at 62 degrees and between Chesterfield Inlet and Arviat, the town is definitely in a remote yet exposed region. Weather is just a part of life and recently the weather has been colder than cold.
Schools in the south get “snow days” though when you get to the 60-degree latitudes school closures are “cold days”…usually accompanied by some snow as well. When temperatures fall to -60C with the windchill or more than just about everyone will stay home and not risk going outside and expose skin. For the past few days, schools have cautiously remained closed.
“I don’t remember the last time we actually closed due to weather. This is a bit of an extreme,” said Mike Osmond, chair of the Rankin Inlet District Education Authority.
Temperatures are getting to –40 C before the windchill and when the winds are factored in, it feels colder than –60 C.
“You’ve got blustery winds with some of the coldest temperatures that people have ever experienced,” said David Phillips, senior climatologist with Environment Canada, adding that his charts say skin freezes in two minutes at –55 C.
Windchill was expected to reach above -65C in the past couple of days and we are watching the area closely to see how the community fairs with the dangerous cold. Blame for the almost 15 degrees colder than normal temperatures is being placed on the polar vortex, a combination of an aggressive weather system and frigid air temperatures.
Elders in the Arviat and Rankin region are advising native hunters to remain home until the chill breaks. Living on the land in the past didn’t have this luxury as they had to scavenge for food in even the most dangerous conditions. Grocery stores in these communities of nearly 2,500 people now allow for a community to survive the winter and feel secure in the far north. These towns in the remote northern region do pay high prices for this luxury but there is no other way to survive as a flourishing community.
However, now that people can go to the grocery store, they don’t have to risk their lives hunting in extreme temperatures. Replacing cultural traditions, however, can sometimes be hard for natives to the region used to living off the land and some have gotten themselves into risky situations.
December through February is the coldest time of the year in Rankin Inlet and the urge to get outdoors is always there. However, for many just relaxing inside until the treacherous temperatures rise is sometimes a matter of life or death!