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A woman bundled up for the cold weather walks up a snow-covered street after 21 centimetres of snow fell overnight, in Vancouver, on Dec. 30, 2021.DARRYL DYCK/The Canadian Press

Wind chill values nudging -50 C covered parts of northern British Columbia on Tuesday as Environment Canada warned of extreme cold and arctic outflows.

The weather office says a very cold air mass has settled across parts of Yukon, northern B.C. and the Elk Valley area in southeastern B.C., with marginal improvement expected Wednesday when winds are forecast to ease slightly.

The cold is mostly expected to persist through the end of the week.

Conditions along the north and central coast could also feel as cold as -20 C with the wind chill, while winter storm watches warn of up to 20 centimetres of snow across parts of Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast through Thursday.

A winter storm watch was also in effect for Metro Vancouver as Environment Canada warned that snow accumulations of up to 20 centimetres by midday Thursday could create challenging conditions for commuting.

There was an added risk of freezing rain in the Fraser Valley.

The forecast prompted a warning from WorkSafeBC, the province’s worker safety agency, for those in forestry, utilities, mining and oil and gas industries in the north.

It says cold stress can be extremely dangerous or even fatal in the event of hypothermia and injuries such as frostbite led to 56 accepted claims between 2016 and 2020.

Avalanche Canada also warned that danger ratings are high and backcountry travel is not recommended in areas of the south coast, Sea-to-Sky and Vancouver Island mountains blanketed by at least 100 centimetres of snow since New Year’s Day.

Snow slabs formed by the wind in exposed areas are “touchy,” the agency says in a post on its website.

“These slabs may take some time to stabilize, as they sit on a weak snow surface formed during the cold spell,” the advisory says.

North Shore Rescue reported a small avalanche partially engulfed a skier in the backcountry on Hollyburn Mountain in West Vancouver on Monday.

The skier suffered a possibly broken leg, the rescue team says in the social media post. Volunteers loaded him on a stretcher and skied him to safety just before nightfall.

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