This week across the Tennessee Valley is Winter Weather Awareness Week for the National Weather Service. Today’s topic will be focused on the criteria for wind chill alerts and how the cold can impact your health. The frequency of winter weather here in the Tennessee Valley is small, but it can cause significant property damage, injury, and even death when it occurs.
During the Winter Season, the types of wintry precipitation are not the only hazard we can see. Have you ever noticed that when it is breezy temperatures feel colder during the winter? This is known as the wind chill and is determined by the combination of temperature and wind speed. The layer of heat generated from our bodies keeps us warm, but when winds are gusty it pushes the heat away from our bodies making us feel colder. Referencing the wind chill chart above, a temperature of 10 degrees can easily feel below zero with a wind speed of 10 mph. The lower the wind chill value, the faster frostbite, and hypothermia can occur.
A Wind Chill Advisory and Warning are issued by the local National Weather Service Office here in Huntsville. The criteria required for wind chill alerts to be issued varies across the United States. For an advisory to be issued in our area, the combination of cold temperatures and gusty winds must create a wind chill value below zero degrees. When we start seeing wind chill values below -10 degrees for an hour or more, a Wind Chill Warning will be issued for the area.
Knowing the signs of hypothermia and frostbite
There are many dangers when it comes to the cold temperatures of Winter that could impact both humans and pets. Hypothermia occurs when the body loses heat faster than it can produce it. Extreme cold can also cause damage to body tissue, this is known as frostbite. Frostbite and hypothermia can occur in just 30 minutes or less when wind chill values are at or below -10 degrees.
If you notice someone is beginning to show signs of hypothermia or frostbite, it is important to seek medical attention. If someone is showing the signs of hypothermia, warm the person slowly starting at the core of the body. When it comes to frostbite, get indoors as quickly as possible and get in a warm, but not hot, bath. You should also stay clear of stoves, heaters, and do not use hairdryers as you could burn yourself without realizing it.
Some simple things you can do to protect yourself from the bitter cold is bundling up when you head out the door. Wearing gloves, hats, and scarves is the perfect way to protect your skin and can limit exposure to the cold. We also can not forget about our furry friends, it is always important to bring them indoors when we begin to see the extreme cold to protect them.