The Grand Rapids Weather Examiner presents the second in a series from the National Weather Service (NWS) on Winter Weather Preparedness. The week of November 3 through 9 has been declared Winter Hazards Awareness Week in Michigan by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder. All citizens are urged to learn more about protecting themselves, their families, and their homes during the winter season.
- Sunday - Winter summary from 2012-2013
- Monday - Cold weather and hypothermia
- Tuesday - Winter Weather Safety Tips for home and car
- Wednesday - Winter Survival Kits
- Thursday - Preparing your home for winter emergencies
- Friday - How snow and cold may affect your health
- Saturday - Understanding winter weather terms
This topic today is cold weather and hypothermia
Michigan residents are always susceptible to the cold weather common every winter. The temperatures do not have to plummet below zero to create a life-threatening situation. According to the Michigan Department of Community Health, 33 people in Michigan died due the exposure to the cold in 2010. This makes cold weather the number one weather-related killer in Michigan.
It is especially important to remember to avoid exposure to cold, wet weather for lengthy periods of time. As colder air invades the state later in the season, the dangers will increase. Always dress for conditions and do not stray too far from shelter for any extended period of time.
Wind chill is the perceived temperature resulting from the effect of wind, in combination with cold air, which increases the rate of heat loss from the human body. See the slide show on the left for the current wind chill chart. Click this link for a wind chill calculator.
The NWS Wind Chill Temperature (WCT) index uses advances in science, technology, and computer modeling to provide an accurate, understandable, and useful formula for calculating the dangers from winter winds and freezing temperatures. The index:
- Calculates wind speed at an average height of five feet, typical height of an adult human face, based on readings from the national standard height of 33 feet, typical height of an anemometer
- Is based on a human face model
- Incorporates heat transfer theory, heat loss from the body to its surroundings, during cold and breezy/windy days
- Lowers the calm wind threshold to 3 mph
- Uses a consistent standard for skin tissue resistance
- Assumes no impact from the sun (i.e., clear night sky).
Tips on how to dress during cold weather.
- Wear 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.
- Wear a hat, because 40% of your body heat can be lost from your 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.
Frostbite is damage to body tissue caused by that tissue being frozen. Frostbite 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. Frostbite varies in severity from frostnip to deep frostbite, depending on the length of exposure, temperature to which the skin is exposed, and wind speed. For frostnip, place firm, steady pressure from a warm hand against the area. Also, blow on the surface holding the frostnipped area against the body. Do not rub the area, apply snow, or plunge it into very hot or cold water. Victims of severe frostbite must receive prompt medical attention.
Hypothermia occurs when the body temperature drops to 95°F or lower. It can develop whenever body heat loss exceeds heat gain. Hypothermia is not exclusive to winter. It can occur during the wind and rain of spring and summer. Hypothermia is often mistaken for fatigue, irritability, or dehydration and may include some of these signs: abnormal decision making; improper response to cold; apathy, lethargy; decreased cooperation; slurred speech; disorientation; shivering; stumbling; and stiffness progressing to inability to move.
Treating mild to moderate hypothermia (body temperature greater than 90°F, conscious, shivering, able to walk):
- Prevent further heat loss. Get the person into a warm area, remove wet clothing, and cover them with blankets.
- Rewarm by warming the center of the body first including chest, neck, head and groin. Rehydrate with warm broth.
- Get medical attention.
Treating severe hypothermia (body temperature less than 90°F, unconscious, not shivering):
- Prevent further heat loss.
- Get medical attention immediately!
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