Montréal, Quebec, Canada was covered in snow and ice two weeks ago.  Within a day, the temperature soared to (48ºF).  Temperatures in Toronto, Ontario soared as high as 16ºC (60ºF).  These temperatures are more in line with typical early and late summer temperatures than what should be expected for the middle of winter.  Shortly thereafter, the province was plunged right into the thick of winter temperatures.  Authorities issued an extreme cold weather alert in the following week, as temperatures plummeted to below -30ºC (-22ºF).

Such brutally cold temperatures can cause hypothermia and its harbinger frostbite, but perhaps less known is that extreme cold can be extremely dangerous for people with heart conditions.  Any activity in the cold can increase heart attack risk in those with preexisting risk factors.  Cold exposure causes blood vessels to constrict.  This stresses the heart and can temporarily spike blood pressure.  This is why an alarming number of people die shoveling snow.  Shoveling snow is particularly strenuous, but any activity in the extreme cold should be limited.  If you must shovel snow, there are important safety tips here.

Quebec started to warm up a few days ago, but on Tuesday, a major winter storm blew through Montreal, Quebec, and Toronto and Ottawa in Ontario, causing tremendous travel chaos.  Most flights into and out of Toronto were grounded, resulting in delays of several hours.  Later, freezing rain caused trouble for aviation and road travel.  The ice storm left 12,000 people in the province without power. Last week, several flights were cancelled throughout the maritime provinces of Canada, as a powerful storm blew in, blanketing parts of Nova Scotia with 43cm (16”) of snow.  Blowing snow in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island caused travel chaos as well.  In Newfoundland, flights were grounded, ferries were docked, and driving was extremely treacherous.  Police warned drivers to stay home, as they were reporting complete whiteout conditions.

Haiti is experiencing severe drought, and has been for over three years.  El Niño is being blamed for the disastrous situation.  In a nation that’s already mired in poverty, food prices are rising substantially in the face of repeatedly decimated harvests.  The poorest Haitians, many of whom are subsistence farmers cannot afford to buy food to feed themselves, and their farms have no or very low yields.  Rising food prices in wealthy nations, and make no mistake, they are rising, are mostly an inconvenience in developed nations with thriving economies.  However, when the majority of the population, 75% of it, lives on less than $2 a day, price increases from a few years of bad harvests are unutterably devastating.

Unfortunately, the tragic events we reported on are in no way a full reflection of what has been going on in the world. If you would like to see all of our recent headlines, please click here.

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