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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Winter's Cold & Wind Make a Comeback

Now that Winter's winds and cold have returned, you'll definitely need to bundle up before heading out the door today. The mercury dipped into the teens inland this morning, and wind gusts of over 20 miles an hour were recorded across southwestern Connecticut. The normal high temperature for today is 41 degrees, but we'll be lucky to reach 30 degrees.

Exposure to brutally cold wind chills for even a brief period of time can be dangerous. Make sure to keep your extremities covered. The wind chill is based on the rate of heat loss on exposed skin caused by the wind and cold. As the wind increases, it draws heat from the body, driving down the skin temperature and eventually the body temperature.

Take a look at the wind chill chart below. Feel free to print the chart and keep it handy. It shows corresponding values for the air temperature and wind speed. For example, when the temperature drops into the teens and the wind is blowing at 15 miles an hour, the wind chill is close to zero. At this wind chill temperature, exposed skin can freeze in 30 minutes!

Frostbite occurs when body tissue freezes. The most susceptible parts of the body are the fingers, toes, ear lobes, or the tip of the nose. Symptoms include a loss of feeling in the extremity and a white or pale appearance. Get medical attention immediately for frostbite. The affected area should be slowly warmed.

Hypothermia occurs when the body temperature falls below 95 degrees. Warning signs include uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness, and exhaustion. Get medical attention immediately. If help is not available, begin warming the body slowly.

SupportWarm the body core first, and not the extremities. Warming extremities first drives the cold blood to the heart and can cause the body temperature to drop even more. That may ultimately lead to heart failure. Do not take any hot beverage or food. About 20% of cold-related deaths occur in the home, according to the National Weather Service Office.

Obviously, the best way to avoid hypothermia and frostbite is to stay warm and dry indoors. If you must go outside, dress appropriately. Wear several layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing. The trapped air inside the layers will insulate the body. Remove the layers to avoid sweating and subsequent chill. Wear a hat since half of body heat can be lost from the head. Cover your mouth to protect the lungs from the extreme cold. Mittens are actually better than gloves. Try to stay dry and out of the wind.

Remember, as far as the wind chill is concerned, it only affects people and animals. The only effect the wind chill has on inanimate objects such as car radiators and water pipes is that it cools the object more quickly to the current air temperature. For example,if the outside air temperature is five degrees below zero and the wind chill temperature is -31 degrees, then the car's radiator will not drop lower than -5.

So, take time to find your scarf, gloves, woolen hat, and heavy overcoat. Today will offer a reminder that there are still over three weeks of Winter left, and we'll sure feel it.