11/11/2014 06:42 EST | Updated 01/11/2015 05:59 EST

Winter weather chills Prairies, coming soon to Ontario, Quebec

It's still technically more than a month away, but winter has arrived in much of the country and won't be letting up any time soon.

Colder than normal temperatures across the Prairies are expected to stretch until at least the weekend, while weather warnings are in effect for large swaths of Ontario and Quebec.

Temperatures in Alberta and Saskatchewan were well below freezing during Remembrance Day ceremonies on Tuesday, with Calgary at –13 C, Edmonton at –12 C and Saskatoon at –9 C.

Normal temperatures for this time of year are around the freezing mark.

In Calgary, many older veterans were unable to brave the weather. Their VIP seating area was mostly empty as a light dusting of snow gathered on neatly folded blankets placed on each seat.

Northeast of Rocky Mountain House, Alta., three people were killed Tuesday morning in a highway crash that happened in icy conditions.

And in Saskatchewan, winter driving conditions were in effect for all highways leading out Regina and Saskatoon.

The cold temperatures aren't expected to break until Saturday at the earliest. In Saskatoon, even a relatively warm high of –7 C isn't expected until Monday. 

There was a huge split in temperatures Tuesday between the West and the East, with Toronto hitting 16 C.

Watches and warnings

"Those two worlds, though, are about to collide," said CBC meteorologist Stephanie Barsby. "Warm air in the form of a low-pressure system heading up from the south, cold Arctic air from the northwest: the two colliding [over Ontario], creating not only rain, rain-snow mix and freezing rain, but heavy snow as well. Lots of watches and warnings."

A swath of Ontario stretching through Sudbury, Timmins and Moosonee is under weather warnings that include freezing rain, snowfall and winter storm warnings, depending on the area.

Parts of Quebec stretching from the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region to as far east as the Sept-Îles-Port-Cartier area are under weather warnings as well, including snowfall and freezing rain warnings.  

In the U.S., parts of the upper Midwest were blanketed with more than 30 centimetres of snow on Tuesday, as residents there and in the Rockies to the west woke up to frigid temperatures that plunged overnight.

The rest of the U.S. Midwest and East are expecting a dose of the icy weather later this week.

The blast of frigid air sent temperatures plunging as far south as the Texas Panhandle, where balmy weather turned to below freezing overnight. In Oklahoma City, Monday's high of 27 C hit was followed by a low of –1 C Tuesday morning.

In Colorado, temperatures fell below freezing — and are expected to stay there through Thursday — prompting officials to move a Veterans Day ceremony indoors in Denver.

Meteorologists are adamant that the cold weather isn't because of the polar vortex, a giant upper air pattern that normally pens in cold air in the Arctic in the winter, but is rather linked to an entirely different weather phenomenon related to the remnants of a powerful typhoon.

"The polar vortex itself has not moved south. It's still in the Arctic where it always is," said National Weather Service spokeswoman Susan Buchanan, adding that federal forecasters are calling this a cold snap or cold front.

Still, forecasters warn that the cold will linger. Some regions will go from record warm to record cold in just two days, and freezing temperatures will likely dip as far south as Atlanta on Friday, said Jeff Masters, meteorology director of the Weather Underground.