Wind Chill Index
It's Winter Weather Awareness week in Wisconsin. All week our team will talk about different types of winter weather and how to be prepared and stay safe during the upcoming season. While we don't have any snow in the forecast, we have had some windy days. Fortunately, temperatures haven't been all that cold yet, but you know the chill is right around the corner! That's why today I want to talk about wind chill and the impacts it can have on our bodies.
The "Wind Chill" is a common term used mainly during the winter season. It indicates how cold it feels outside, on exposed skin. The wind chill is determined through a calculation that combines the wind speed and the actual air temperature.
This is how it looks in chart form. Notice, it shows temperatures along the top with wind speed down the left hand side. So for instance, an air temperature of 25° with wind speeds of 10 mph will lead to a wind chill temperature of 15°.
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Prolonged exposure to extreme cold and wind can be dangerous, and even deadly. The National Weather Service reports that on average, nearly 25 people die each year from cold weather in the United States. That's why it's important to keep a close watch on forecasts during cold spells. Wind Chill Advisories are issued when wind chills reach -20° F, and Wind Chill Warnings are issued when chills drop to -35° F or lower. Exposure to wind chills of -18° can lead to frostbite within 30 minutes, and even quicker as it gets colder. Serious health problems like frostbite and hypothermia can arise from exposure to this type of extreme cold.
Here are a few other dangers from the cold.
Frostbite is a severe reaction to cold exposure that can leave permanently damage to body tissue. Symptoms of frostbite include a loss of feeling and a white or pale appearance in fingers, toes, nose and ear lobes.
Hypothermia is a condition brought on when the body temperature drops to less than 95°F. Symptoms of hypothermia include uncontrollable shivering, slow speech, memory lapses, frequent stumbling, drowsiness, and exhaustion.
Overexertion can also be dangerous during cold weather. Cold air puts added strain on the heart. Chores like shoveling or pushing a car can bring on a heart attack or make an existing medical condition worse.
Don't forget about your pets. Pets should stay indoors when temperatures drop below the freezing mark. Dogs and cats can get frost bitten ears, nose and feet if left outside during bitter cold weather. Additionally, chemicals used to melt snow and ice can irritate pets' paws - be sure to keep anti-freeze, salt and other poisons away from pets.
I'm meteorologist Rebecca Schuld