Michael Lewis, a meteorologist with the Northern Indiana office of the National Weather Service, said from Tuesday, Jan. 29-Thursday, Jan. 31, temperatures are going to be so cold as to be dangerous– and even deadly.
People do not realize how significant the threat can be, he said in a Monday interview.
“We have a fresh snow pack now.
“Then, with the arctic air that’s going to be moving into the area Tuesday, the temperatures for Tuesday night, Wednesday, and Wednesday night into Thursday, we’re looking at… air temperatures that are going to be minus 15 to minus 20 degrees, especially where there’s a lot of snow on the ground.
“We are confident this cold air is coming. The question is, how cold is it going to get?
“We’re still not 100% certain what the final temperature is going to be,” Lewis said.
With temperatures that low, “and on top of that, you add the wind– you start to get 20- to 30-mile-an-hour winds– the wind chill is going to go through the bottom, and bottom out very, very cold.
“That’s what we’re struggling with right now, trying to identify exactly how strong the winds are going to be and how low those temperatures are going to drop.”
When temperatures and wind chill figures drop that low, people who go outside with exposed flesh “could begin feeling the effects of frostbite within about 15 seconds, so you start actually having problems where that exposure is almost instantaneously.
“We really need to emphasize that conditions are (going to be) really, really bad, and you are not advised to be out at all.”
Lewis said looking at historical records, “you have to go back to like the 1960s– the early 1960s– to see similar temperatures.
“If you start looking at… historically record-breaking temperatures– the minus 20s– you have to go all the way back to near the turn of the (20th) century, into the World War I era– 1917, 1918… to see the significant record-breaking temperatures in the minus 20s.
“So this is a generational thing. There are people here that have probably never experienced those types of temperatures.
“What we have found locally is the leading cause of fatalities when you start taking (in account) all of the weather involved, the actual dramatic cold temperatures are the most life-threatening of all the weather events we get, because of the exposure issues.
“We need to emphasize, this is not something to ignore, this is something to take very seriously,” Lewis said.
Lewis explained in the arctic and Antarctic areas, there’s cold air bottled up.
“Periodically, we’ll end up with these storm systems that allow that air flow to come down across Canada, across North America, and dive down into the Plains.
“A lot of the time, it will change and warm up as it gets further south, but we have a lot of snow over North America right now. We’ve got a lot of cold air, brutally cold air up in the Polar Regions, and the pattern is changing, we’re going to see a surge that drops down into the Great Lakes region, that’s going to plunge down into almost all of the Eastern United States.”
Cold air coming far south is, “a rare occurrence. I’m not saying it’s never occurred, but it’s rare, and we need to take it very seriously.
“Cold air like this really taxes your system, even for young people, you can actually be overcome by the cold in very short order.
“The elderly, and the very young seem to be the most susceptible to hypothermia, and this type of situation,” Lewis said.
“The best thing to do is stay warm, try to find a place to stay warm. If you have any questions, seek out shelter, seek out warming stations, and limit your exposure to the outdoors,” he said.
Rebecca Gobel, Fulton County Emergency Management Agency director, said she has been in touch with the Red Cross, discussing what shelters can be opened if there were a power failure.
She said shelters can’t be pre-opened, but could be opened in a matter of hours.
“We’ll post on our Facebook pages the weather that’s coming our way, and what you can do to be prepared for that.
“You know, grab your extra blankets and have them handy, if you have a second source of heat, get that ready, check on your elderly neighbors, have extra water ready just in case,” Gobel said.
“In these frigid temperatures, if you’re out less than 10 minutes, you could be frostbitten.
“Poor little animals, even the animals are going to suffer through this. When you take you dog out for a walk, make them very short walks. When you bring them back in, wipe off their little feet, and try to keep them warm,” she said.
Chris Eck, Toledo Edison spokesman, said the company power distribution system is ready for the storm.
Company officials are not expecting major trouble, and if trouble erupts, they expect it to be isolated.–posted Monday, 1.28 8:40 pm