A weakening polar vortex has unleashed extremely cold air that is beginning to propagate southward into the Central U.S. Multiple cities will experience record breaking cold that most of us haven't seen in quite some time. The arctic air, together with brisk winds, will lead not only to dangerously cold wind chill values but extremely dangerous weather conditions. It is important during this type of event to take any warning seriously and to take as many safety precautions as possible to ensure the highest rate of safety for yourself and others.
In preparation for this record cold air mass, National Weather Service (NWS) Offices stretching from Montana all the way to Pennsylvania have issued Wind Chill advisories (light blue) and Wind Chill Warnings (light steel blue). Now both should be taken seriously and it is important to know the difference between an advisory and a warning. Here are the definitions provided by the NWS:
Wind Chill Warnings will begin to go into effect tonight and will last through the day on Wednesday & Thursday. Wind chills during this time frame will be extremely dangerous and range from -35° to -55°. Morning low temperatures on both Wednesday & Thursday look to be between -20° and -35° across portions of the central U.S. This is very dangerous cold air that we are going to be dealing with throughout the next 48 hours. Below is a chart provided by the NWS on how fast frostbite can occur in certain extreme cold conditions.
With how extremely cold this arctic air mass is, it is important to follow these safety procedures to not only ensure your safety, but the safety of everyone around you. To make sure you and your family are safe from the cold, make sure to dress up in multiple layers and cover any exposed skin. Frostbite can occur within 5 to 10 minutes of being outside in this type of extremely cold weather. So it is important to limit your time outdoors and stay indoors as much as possible.
Same thing goes for your pets. Remember, your pets are family too so they should be given same amount of love and safety as you. Bring any outdoor pets inside and limit their time outdoors. When you take them outside, cover their paws. Then once you are back inside, check their paws to see if any symptoms of frostbite are present. Also, make sure that they have plenty of food and water before the cold hits. It will not be a good idea to go get pet supplies during the extreme cold event because you are putting not only your pet at risk, but you as well.
Cold temperatures will also have an effect on your cars engine as well. When it is this cold outside, the engine fuel becomes thicker causing it to not flow through the engine as smoothly as it should. The extremely cold air also causes car batteries to drain quicker than when it is hot outside. And if there is any moisture in the fuel lines of the engine, it will freeze up causing a blockage which will allow the engine to not start properly. To make sure that your car starts up properly, put it in somewhere where it is warmer like a parking garage, a shelter, or in your own garage. This is to ensure that if you have to travel somewhere, your car won't have any problem starting up.
But if by chance you have to travel, make sure that your gas tank is a least half full. To fully prepare for traveling in the extreme cold, it would be wise to fill up your gas tank before the record cold air moves in. Another important thing to check is your coolant. Make sure that you fill your coolant fluid so that the car warms up quicker and doesn't have any trouble performing while traveling. Always make sure someone in your family knows that you are traveling so that if you have any problems on the road, someone will be there to help!
Once the arctic blast has fully moved out of your area, here are few things to keep in check. The top priority is to check to see that your family, and neighbors are okay after the cold blast. Power outages can occur during the extreme cold and can expose a person to not only frostbite but to hypothermia as well. Area of the human body that are most prone to frostbite are uncovered skin and the extremities, such as hands and feet.
Be sure to check your pipes because they may be frozen. Especially the water pipes located on outside walls and in places that are subject to the cold, like in your basement or underneath your kitchen cabinets, will freeze during a cold blast. When water freezes up, it cause the pipes to also expand and burst. A good way to warm the pipes back up is to first turn on the faucet and let water drip. If you want a quicker way to heat the pipes, try using a space heater, electric hair dryer, or hot water on a cloth. Continue these processes until water pressure returns to normal.
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© 2019 Meteorologist Joseph Marino