Hello and welcome to another episode of “Weather Matters with Matthews.” This episode focuses on cold weather safety. Staying safe this holiday season also means staying safe when the weather gets cold. Extremely cold air comes every winter and affects millions across the country. Cold wind chill values from brisk arctic air can lead to dangerous conditions, including frostbite to the uncovered skin and hypothermia, which occurs when the body loses heat faster than it can produce.
Dangerous wind chills can happen as a response to watches and warnings. Remember, a wind chill watch indicates that dangerously cold wind chill values are possible within the area. A wind chill warning indicates that dangerously cold wind chill values are expected or occurring within the area. Be sure to limit time outdoors when a wind chill warning is issued.
The wind chill chart below indicates roughly how long exposed skin can stay in the cold before frostbite occurs. The lower the temperature and the faster the sustained wind speed, the sooner frostbite happens. If you suspect frostbite on the fingers, toes, nose, ears, or any area of exposed skin, head into a heated location immediately and begin warming the affected areas using warm water or body heat. Do not use hot water as that can cause burns to the affected area.

Wind chill chart showing how fast frostbite occurs based on temperature and wind speed. Photo credit: The National Weather Service

To prepare for extremely cold weather, be sure to adjust your schedule to avoid being outside on the coldest time of the day. Dress for the outdoors even if you don’t think you will be out for very long. If you plan on driving in the extreme cold, make sure your vehicle has at least a half a tank of gas so that you can stay warm if you become stranded. It is also a good idea to pack an ice scraper for your windshield and a charger for your phone in case an emergency phone call is needed.