Ohio Winter Safety Awareness Week: Wind Chills

WHAT IS WIND CHILL ANYWAY?
Basically, wind chill, or more accurately, wind chill index, is the perceived temperature to exposed skin in cold temperatures. It’s the exact opposite of ‘heat index’ – how hot if FEELS LIKE on those hot muggy summer days.

Cold air temperatures can be deadly all by themselves but when the wind is blowing, it can be even deadlier. Since body heat can be lost quickly from people and animals with a cold wind, hypothermia can set in quicker. The wind chill temperature gives us a better idea of how cold it “FEELS LIKE” outside. Your risk of getting frost bite and hypothermia increases as the wind chill gets colder.

Wind chill temperatures have no bearing on the temperature on inanimate objects but it can shorten the time it takes for water and water pipes to freeze.

The wind chill chart above also shows the approximate time it takes for frost bite to develop under cold conditions. It’s something to keep in mind of you must be outdoors when wind chills are forecast to drop below zero.

NWS WATCHES, ADVISORIES, AND WARNINGS
All NWS offices in Ohio will issue wind chill Watches, Advisories, and Warnings under certain criteria. Since the Tuscarawas Valley is under the watchful eye of the Pittsburgh office, the criteria for wind chill headlines is listed in the chart below. (IMPORTANT: The Cleveland and Wilmington offices in Ohio may have different criteria for wind chill headlines.)

ARCTIC WIND CHILLS CAN CAUSE FROST BITE AND HYPOTHERMIA
Frostbite happens when the body’s survival mechanisms kick in during extremely cold weather. To protect the vital inner organs, the body cuts circulation to your extremities: feet, hands, nose, etc., which eventually freeze.

Just as there are burn degrees there are also degrees of frost bite:

  • First Degree: Surface of skin is frozen, called frostnip;
  • Second Degree: The skin may freeze and harden, blisters form in a day or two;
  • Third Degree: Muscles, tendons nerves and blood vessels freeze;
  • Fourth Degree: Pain lasts for more than a few hours and skin may develop dark blue or black.
  • Gangrene is a real threat and will require amputation of extremities if occurs.

Hypothermia is an abnormally low body temperature and begins to occur when a person’s body temperature drops to 3°F below its normal temperature, usually below 96°F. Hypothermia can kill you. Warning signs include uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness, and exhaustion. Get medical attention
immediately.

SAFETY MEASURES
The best way to avoid hypothermia and frostbite is to stay warm and dry indoors. When you must go outside, dress appropriately. Wear several layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing. Trapped air between the layers will insulate you.

Outer garments should be tightly woven, water repellent, and hooded to reduce body heat loss caused by the wind. Wool, silk, or polypropylene inner layers of clothing will hold more body heat than cotton. Remove layers to avoid sweating and subsequent chill.

Wear a hat, because most of your body heat can be lost from your exposed head. Cover your mouth to protect your lungs from extreme cold.

Mittens, snug at the wrist, are better than gloves. Try to stay dry and out of the wind. Eat well balanced meals and drink warm sweet beverages or broth to help maintain your body temperature. Also, avoid getting gasoline or alcohol on your skin while de-icing and fueling your car or using a snow blower. These materials in contact with the skin greatly increase heat loss from the body.

Do not ignore shivering. It’s an important first sign that the body is losing heat. Persistent shivering is a signal to return
indoors.