Bitter wind chills will impact millions this week

Posted at 4:05 PM, Jan 29, 2019


There’s been a lot of talk about the deep freeze moving in for many areas of the United States. The Upper Midwest, Great Lakes, and Northeast are all facing incredibly cold temperatures this week as polar air rotates through. Air temperatures have only been in the negatives today for parts of North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Michigan.

The air is COLD, but the winds with this system make it feel even colder! The wind chill takes into account the way the combination of cold air and wind will impact skin. It’s how cold the air actually feels if you step outside. The stronger the wind, the colder the wind chill feels. Winds around these areas today have been around 15-25 mph with stronger gusts at times. The combination dumps wind chills well into the negative double digits.

The wind allows the cold air to basically pull warmth away from your exposed skin so your body heat will deplete more quickly. This can lead to the development of frostbite, hypothermia, etc. The wind chill can be used to estimate how much time it will take for exposed skin to develop frostbite. Wind chills in the -20’s and -30’s typically cause frostbite in about 30 minutes. Once wind chills get down into the -50’s and -60’s, frostbite can happen in just 15 minutes. That’s incredibly extreme. Many areas dealing with the cold are experiencing conditions that can cause frostbite in about 10 minutes. That’s why people are discouraged from spending time outside and many schools are closed. It’s just too dangerous to have unnecessary exposure to cold like this. The cold is expected to last through the end of this week for many areas.

We don’t typically have widespread cold like this around Colorado, but some of our mountain valleys can experience bitter cold. The record cold temperature for Alamosa is -42°. It’s not impossible. However, that temperature was an overnight low and winds were calm so there was no additional wind chill and it did warm up a bit during the day. It wasn’t a prolonged cold event.