Temperatures to Reach -50 Degrees in Some Parts of U.S.: Here's How to Stay Safe in Extreme Cold
This type of bone-chilling cold can be life-threatening
Extreme cold weather is hitting parts of the U.S. this week. The Midwest, from the Dakotas to Western New York, is experiencing some of the coldest temperatures to hit the region in more than two decades, according to The Weather Channel. On Wednesday morning, it was -23 degrees Farenheit in Chicago, and the National Weather Service recorded -30 in Wisconsin. The negative temps extend as far south as Kentucky, and according to The Weather Channel, things won’t get milder until the weekend.
Here’s how to stay safe until things warm up:
Know how long it takes to develop frost bite.
According to the National Weather Service, frost bite can set in with a wind chill of -20 degrees in just 30 minutes. The colder it is outside, the faster the condition — which causes a loss of feeling and a white or pale appearance in extremities, such as fingers, toes, ear lobes or the tip of the nose — will set in. For example, winds blowing at 50 miles per hour when it’s -50 degrees outside can cause frost bite in 2 minutes.
If you’re concerned that you or someone you know may have developed frost bite, seek medical help immediately.
These temperatures can also cause hypothermia, when a person’s internal temperature drops below 95 degrees. Seek help immediately if you or someone you know may have developed hypothermia.
Although it may seem counterproductive, the National Weather Service recommends your inner layers of clothing be loose and light-weight because the air trapped between the layers will insulate you.
The outer layer should be tightly woven, water repellent, and hooded. Wear a hat and cover your mouth to protect your lungs. Mittens, especially if they’re tight at the wrist, are preferable to gloves.
Regardless of what you’re wearing, stay dry and out of the wind as much as possible.
Be prepared when traveling.
If you have to take a car to and from work or another location amid the arctic temperatures, keep the necessities to stay warm in your vehicle. The National Weather Service recommends warm clothes, boots, blankets, flashlight with extra batteries and snacks. A charged cell phone is also good to have. To keep it working properly — cell phones die more quickly in the extreme cold — store it close to you so your body heat keeps it warm.
NBC News reports that it’s important to drink water or other hydrating beverages when it’s extremely cold outside because you’re more likely to forget to since you don’t feel hot. Herbal tea is a good alternative to water, in these circumstances.
NBC adds to avoid drinking alcohol during a polar vortex because it can give you a false sense of warmth by increasing blood flow to your extremities. In reality, though, according to the outlet, it lowers your body temperature, which can potentially contribute to hypothermia.
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Look out for ice.
Plunging temperatures mean more ice, so be cautious when walking outside or driving. According to AccuWeather, black ice, the most dangerous type because it blends in with its surroundings, forms most often when air is below 32 degrees Fahrenheit.
So if you’re driving, keep your eyes peeled for smooth, glossy sheets, especially if they stand out from the rest of road, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. If you do hit black ice, do not hit the breaks and keep the steering wheel straight. If you feel the car turning, make a slight adjustment to keep driving in the same direction. If you try to turn aggressively in the opposite direction, you risk skidding or spinning out.