|Record-breaking cold closes schools |
Staff Photo by Stacey Hairston:
At 8:30 a.m. Tuesday morning, the thermometer at Mountain to Lake Realty in Rocky Mount read a miserable 1 degree. By 9:30 a.m., the temperature had risen to 4 degrees.
Wednesday, January 8, 2014
By STACEY HAIRSTON - Staff Writer
Bitterly cold temperatures gripped much of the eastern half of the United States Monday night and throughout the day on Tuesday as a "polar vortex" made its way from the Great Lakes into Franklin County.
Temperatures plunged to a record-breaking low of 1 degree Tuesday morning, according to the National Weather Service. Meteorologists area-wide predicted the temperatures to dip lower than what has been seen in over two decades.
A polar vortex is circulation of strong, upper-level winds that normally surround the northern pole in a counterclockwise direction -- a polar low-pressure system, according to CNN International senior meteorologist Brandon Miller.
"These winds tend to keep the bitter cold air locked in the Arctic regions of the Northern Hemisphere," he said. "On occasion, this vortex can become distorted and dip much farther south than you would normally find it, allowing cold air to spill southward."
High winds were also a major factor for residents earlier this week. The National Weather Service issued a wind chill advisory and hazardous weather outlook that was in effect until 3 p.m. yesterday for Central and Southwest Virginia.
Wind chills varied in the region from 5 below to 25 below zero.
Franklin County schools were closed Tuesday to protect students from the dangerously low temperatures.
The National Weather Service is now predicting a possibility of freezing rain on Thursday and Friday morning.
During extreme cold weather, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) encourages everyone to protect themselves against serious health problems that can result from prolonged exposure to the cold.
"When exposed to cold temperatures, your body begins to lose heat faster than it can be produced, causing cold-weather health problems such as frostbite and hypothermia," said State Health Commissioner Cynthia Romero, M.D. "Neither of these conditions should be taken lightly, and all Virginians should take the necessary steps to lower their risk of exposure."
•Wear cold weather appropriate clothing like gloves/mittens, hats, scarves and snow boots. Dress in several layers of loose-fitting clothing and cover your face and mouth if possible.
•Be aware of the wind chill factor. Wind can cause body-heat loss.
•Stay dry, and if you become wet, remove any wet clothing immediately.
•Limit your time outdoors.
•Do not ignore shivering. It's an important first sign that the body is losing heat. Persistent shivering is a signal to return indoors.
•If the heat in your home doesn't work properly, contact your local government to find a warming center near you.
Frostbite is an injury to the body that is caused by freezing. Frostbite causes a loss of feeling and color in affected areas. It most often affects the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers or toes. Frostbite can permanently damage the body. Severe cases may result in digit or limb amputation.
At the first signs of redness or pain in any skin area, get out of the cold or protect any exposed skin. Any of the following signs may indicate frostbite: a white or grayish-yellow skin area, skin that feels unusually firm or waxy and numbness.
The person is often unaware of frostbite until someone else points it out because the frozen tissues are numb. If you suspect symptoms of frostbite, seek medical care.
Hypothermia is an abnormally low body temperature caused when your body is losing heat faster than it can be produced. Warning signs may include shivering, exhaustion, confusion, fumbling hands, memory loss, slurred speech or drowsiness.
In infants, warning signs may include bright red, cold skin or very low energy. If you notice signs of hypothermia, take the person's temperature. If the temperature is below 95 degrees, it's an emergency and should seek medical attention immediately.
Additional information on dealing with extreme cold is available at www.vdh.virginia.gov/weather/ColdWeatherSafety.htm, and from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at www.bt.cdc.gov/disasters/winter/guide.asp.