Wind chill is an apparent temperature that describes the combined effect of wind and low air temperatures on exposed skin. Breezy or windy conditions break up the insulating layer of warmer air around our bodies, speeding up the heat loss from our skin. This only applies to people and animals rather than inanimate objects.
Things you can do to counteract the effects of wind chill:
- Cover exposed skin
- Dress in layers
- Limit time outdoors during the coldest portions of the day
Wind Chill Warning vs Watch
- Wind Chill Warning: Take Action! NWS issues a wind chill warning when dangerously cold wind chill values are expected or occurring. If you are in an area with a wind chill warning, avoid going outside during the coldest parts of the day. If you do go outside, dress in layers, cover exposed skin, and make sure at least one other person knows your whereabouts. Update them when you arrive safely at your destination.
- Wind Chill Watch: Be Prepared: NWS issues a wind chill watch when dangerously cold wind chill values are possible. As with a warning, adjust your plans to avoid being outside during the coldest parts of the day. Make sure your car has at least a half a tank of gas, and update your winter survival kit.
- Wind Chill Advisory: Be Aware: NWS issues a wind chill advisory when seasonably cold wind chill values but not extremely cold values are expected or occurring. Be sure you and your loved ones dress appropriately and cover exposed skin when venturing outdoors.
Prepare for Cold Weather
The way to avoid frostbite and hypothermia is to plan for extreme cold before it arrives. Don't get caught unprepared.
- Check the Forecast at weather.gov or your favorite weather app, station, etc.: Make checking the forecast part of your regular routine so you'll know when to expect cold weather.
- Adjust Your Schedule: If possible, adjust your schedule to avoid being outside during the coldest part of the day, typically the early morning. Try to find a warm spot for your children while waiting for the school bus outside.
- Protect Your Pets, Livestock and other Property: If you have pets or farm animals, make sure they have plenty of food and water, and are not overly exposed to extreme cold. Take precautions to ensure your water pipes do not freeze. Know the temperature thresholds of your plants and crops.
- Fill up the tank: Make sure your car or vehicle has at least a half a tank of gas during extreme cold situations so that you can stay warm if you become stranded.
- Dress for the outdoors even if you don't think you'll be out much.
- Update Your Winter Car Survival Kit: Make sure your car survival kit has the following:
- Jumper cables: flares or reflective triangle are great extras
- Flashlights: Replace the batteries before the winter season starts and pack some extras
- First Aid Kit: Also check your purse of bag for essential medications
- Baby, special needs gear: If you have a baby or family member with special needs, pack diapers and any special formula or food
- Food: Stock non-perishable food such as canned food and a can opener, dry cereal and protein rich foods like nuts and energy bars
- Water: Have at least 1 gallon of water per person a day for at least 3 days
- Basic toolkit: Pliers, wrench, screwdriver
- Pet supplies: Food and water
- Radio: Battery or hand cranked
- Cat litter or sand: For better tire traction
- Shovel: To dig out snow
- Ice scraper: Even if you usually park in a garage, have one in the car.
- Clothes: Make sure you dress for the weather in warm clothes, gloves, hat, sturdy boots, jacket and an extra change of clothes for the cold
- Warmers: Pack extra for body, hands, feet
- Blankets or sleeping bags: If you get stranded in traffic on a lonely road, you'll be glad to have it.
- Charged Cell Phone: Keep a spare charger in your car as well
During Extremely Cold Weather
If you or someone you care about must venture outdoors during extreme cold this winter, dress in layers. Cover exposed skin to reduce your risk of frostbite or hypothermia. Try to seek shelter from the wind as much as possible while outside. Once inside again, change into dry clothing immediately if you are wet. Understand and watch for frostbite and hypothermia.
Essential Tasks After it Warms Up
- Check Your Pipes: Your pipes may be frozen. Water pipes on exterior walls and in places that are subject to cold, like in the basement, attic, and under kitchen cabinets, freeze most often. Water expands as it freezes, causing pipes to burst. If they are frozen, first turn on the faucet. Water will drip as you warm the pipes. Heat the pipes using a space heater, heating pad, electric hair dryer or hot water on a cloth. Never use an open flame. Continue until water pressure returns to normal or call a plumber if you have more issues.
- Salt Your Walkways: Once it warms up enough to out, it's important to shovel the snow from your sidewalks and driveway or sprinkle salt if there is ice. If there is a thick layer of snow on the ground you cannot move, salt the area so that the snow melts. You should also put down salt if there is ice on your stairs leading into your house--less than a quarter inch of ice can be dangerous!
- Call Your Neighbors: Check to see that your neighbors are okay after the storm, particularly seniors, disabled persons or others living alone. Carbon monoxide poisoning is one of the leading causes of death after storms, particularly when there are power outages. Cases of frostbite and hypothermia are also common for elderly people who were stuck in their homes.
- Refill Your Supplies: This storm may be over, but there might be another one soon. Every storm is different, so it is important to always be prepared.