Winter at Its Worse...Dangerous Wind Chills Coming

So far, we've had a taste of winter this season whether you're talking about the snow or cold.  But just wait until we get into a new week.  Temperatures will take the slide fast during the day on Sunday.  In fact, midweek highs will only be in the single digits with overnight lows hovering near -10 by Thursday morning. 

This is only part of the story.  With the wind, at times, it'll feel like -30 to -40.  Take a look at the chart below and notice how fast you can experience frostbite at these dangerous temperatures.  In minutes.

When you talk about wind chills, it's how it really feels.  Again, you're combining wind with temperature. The wind chill charts do show generally how long it will take skin to freeze at lower and lower values. For example, a temperature of 0 degree F and a wind of 20 mph creates wind chill of –22 degrees F and skin can freeze in 30 minutes. If the wind rises to 55 mph, the wind chill drops to –32 degrees F, and skin can freeze in 10 minutes. Remember, the only reason skin freezes faster at lower wind chill is because the body's heat envelope is removed more quickly. Skin doesn't freeze until its temperature is well below 32 degrees F, because its cells contain salts and other compounds that lower its freezing point below that of water. Exact times vary depending on an individual's blood flow, fat layers and underlying tissue.

Realizing that coldness is all about perception raises other interesting observations. People who have a lot of body fat may actually feel colder than those who do not, despite the notion that fat acts as insulation. More fat under the skin can actually prevent heat, generated in underlying muscles, from reaching the skin. Because the perception of cold comes mostly from nerves in the skin, as the air temperature drops, people with high body fat might feel colder.

Doctors have some good advice on avoiding frostbite...If your feet or hands feel cold, it may be the first step on a journey to frostbite. Stop and rewarm them before they go numb.
  • When layering your clothing, make sure each layer is larger than the layer it's on top of: There should be about 1/4 inch of air space between each layer.
  • Avoid tight-fitting clothing - including footwear - which might impair circulation.
  • Avoid alcohol, which could contribute to dehydration and impair judgment, as well as caffeine and nicotine, which constrict blood vessels and therefore reduce the blood supply to extremities.

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