Winter Weather Awareness - Wind Chill

We just told you about the warm chinook winds that can do damage, so here's the cold side to that story...

Wind Chill in Colorado 

EXTREME WIND CHILL...POTENTIALLY LIFE THREATENING AND OFTEN OVERLOOKED...

THE COMBINATION OF WIND AND LOW TEMPERATURES IN WINTER CAN BE DEADLY.  THE WIND CHILL INDEX HELPS YOU TO DETERMINE WHEN DANGEROUS CONDITIONS DEVELOP THAT COULD LEAD TO FROSTBITE OR HYPOTHERMIA.  IT TAKES INTO ACCOUNT HEAT LOSS FROM THE HUMAN BODY TO ITS SURROUNDINGS DURING COLD AND WINDY WEATHER.  THE CALCULATION UTILIZES WIND SPEED IN MILES PER HOUR AND TEMPERATURE IN DEGREES FAHRENHEIT.  FOR EXAMPLE...A TEMPERATURE OF MINUS 5 DEGREES OCCURRING WITH A 20 MPH WIND GIVES A WIND CHILL NEAR MINUS 30 DEGREES.  THIS MEANS THAT YOUR BODY WILL LOSE HEAT AT THE SAME RATE AS IT WOULD IF THE AIR TEMPERATURE WERE MINUS 30 DEGREES WITH NO WIND.  WIND CHILL VALUES NEAR MINUS 25 DEGREES MEAN THAT FROSTBITE CAN OCCUR IN AS LITTLE AS 15 MINUTES.

FROSTBITE FIRST AFFECTS EXPOSED BODY TISSUE WHERE BLOOD CIRCULATION MAY BE LIMITED...SUCH AS FINGERS AND TOES...AS WELL AS YOUR NOSE AND EARS.  TO MINIMIZE FROSTBITE...MAKE SURE ALL BODY PARTS ARE WELL COVERED.  WHEN FROSTBITE STARTS...FEELING IS LOST IN THE AFFECTED AREA AND THE FROZEN TISSUE WILL TAKE ON A WHITE OR PALE APPEARANCE.  IF YOU SUSPECT YOU ARE EXPERIENCING FROSTBITE...HOLD THE FROSTBITTEN AREA CLOSELY AGAINST WARM SKIN TO RETURN BLOOD FLOW AND WARMTH TO THE AFFECTED AREA.

HYPOTHERMIA IS A DANGEROUSLY LOW BODY TEMPERATURE AND IS THE MOST COMMON WEATHER KILLER IN WINTER. WHEN YOU HEAR OF A HIKER...CLIMBER...OR A HUNTER OR STRANDED TRAVELER PERISHING FROM COLD WEATHER EXPOSURE...HYPOTHERMIA WAS THE CAUSE.  MOST PEOPLE ARE SURPRISED TO LEARN THAT HYPOTHERMIA DEATHS CAN OCCUR WITH TEMPERATURES BETWEEN 30 AND 50 DEGREES.  IF YOU OR YOUR CLOTHING ARE WET...THEN HYPOTHERMIA BECOMES EVEN MORE LIKELY. 

WARNING SIGNS OF HYPOTHERMIA INCLUDE UNCONTROLLABLE SHIVERING...MEMORY LOSS...DISORIENTATION...SLURRED SPEECH AND DROWSINESS.  IMMEDIATE MEDICAL ATTENTION SHOULD BE GIVEN TO VICTIMS SUSPECTED OF SUFFERING FROM HYPOTHERMIA.  IF NO HELP IS AVAILABLE...THE VICTIM SHOULD BE WARMED SLOWLY WITH WARM LIQUIDS ALONG WITH DRY CLOTHING AND BLANKETS.

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE OFFICE IN PUEBLO WILL ISSUE WIND CHILL ADVISORIES AND WARNINGS WHEN A DEADLY COMBINATION OF WIND AND COLD AIR THREATEN THE AREA.  TO LEARN MORE ABOUT WIND CHILL AND TO SEE A WIND CHILL CHART...VISIT THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE INTERNET SITE AT

http://www.weather.gov/os/windchill/index.shtml

WHEN COLD WEATHER THREATENS COLORADO...FOLLOW THESE TIPS FOR SURVIVAL...

STAY DRY...WET CLOTHING RESULTS IN MUCH FASTER HEAT LOSS FROM YOUR BODY.  WEAR WATERPROOF INSULATED BOOTS.

STAY COVERED...WEAR MITTENS OR GLOVES ON YOUR HANDS AND A HAT TO COVER YOUR HEAD. AT LEAST HALF OF YOUR BODY HEAT IS LOST IF YOUR HEAD IS NOT COVERED.

DRESS LAYERED...THE TRAPPED AIR BETWEEN LOOSE FITTING CLOTHING HELPS TO INSULATE.

STAY INFORMED...HAVE A PORTABLE NOAA WEATHER RADIO ALLHAZARDS TO KEEP YOU UP TO DATE WITH THE LATEST FORECASTS AND WARNINGS.  USE WIND CHILL TEMPERATURES TO GUIDE YOU IN DRESSING PROPERLY FOR THE OUTDOORS.  ON VERY COLD DAYS...BE SMART AND MINIMIZE YOUR EXPOSURE TO THE OUTDOORS IF POSSIBLE.

Chief Meteorologist Brian Bledsoe

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Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
  • by Deb Location: Colorado Springs on Feb 7, 2011 at 10:18 PM
    In response to James Dykes comment: the author never stated that wind chill decreases the temperature. Simply that combination of wind and low temperatures can be deadly. yes, wind chill and hypothermia are two separate things, but they CAN work together hand in hand when the circumstances allow. yes, there IS a danger by wind chill. If you're outside in below freezing weather, any exposed area can and WILL be affected if you're outside long enough. And it only takes FIFTEEN MINUTES. You don't have to be "naked" to feel the affects of the temperature and wind chill. Do you completely cover your eyes, nose, ears, etc every single time you go out? I doubt that you do, but for the sake of argument, I will assume you walk around in a full ski mask. But many others aren't able to do that. Kids often won't keep their gloves on. Not to mention outdoors workers who have no choice. YOU are not doing anyone a service by discrediting scientific fact.
  • by James Dykes Location: colorado springs on Dec 12, 2010 at 12:18 PM
    Your "wind chill"begins with an untrue statement. Wind chill does not decrease the temperatire. Some have developed a belief system that allows for the blending of wind chill into hypothermia when they are two separate conditions. Wind chill is nothing more than a feeling and it cannot cause hypothermia. It is a feeling, not a temperature. Therefore, there is no danger caused by the "Wind Chill Factor." Lose your little chart and see if you can tell what the wind chill factor is. First you have to be naked. Wind chill works only on exposed human skin. Again it is a feeling. Still don't believe it? Do you have a car with a thermometer? When you drive (increase the wind) does the temperature change? Of course it does not. Weather people have come to use this old U.S. Army experiment to by winter clothing as a means to scare people about the weather. You are not doing anyone a service by repeating the untruths about the "Wind Chill Factor."
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