Wind Chill and Record Cold!!


Very cold arctic air will remain in place over most of the Plains for the remainder of the week.  Much of northeast Kansas will set record cold low temperatures come Saturday morning.  Here is some information on record cold and wind chill.

Historical Perspective:


Consecutive cold days

While the area has not experienced a winter like this in recent years, records at Topeka and Concordia are not without long stretches of cold weather.  Topeka's longest stretch of freezing temperatures lasted for 23 days in January 1930, finally ending on January 29 of that year.  Perhaps more impressively is a 13 day stretch in January and February of 1936 when daytime highs failed to warm above 20 degrees.  Concordia's longest stretch of freezing temperatures lasted for 22 days in December of 1914.  For 15 consecutive days in February and March of 1960, the temperature did not warm above 20 degrees at Concordia.

So what about the snow cover?  Well the record for consecutive days with at least 1 inch of snow on the ground is 54 days at Topeka during the winter of 1979 and 62 days at Concordia during the 1984 winter.  This current stretch of cold weather is still far from record setting, but it doesn't make it feel any better.  Perhaps the good news is that the record cold stretches eventually ended so this one should as well.


Record for consecutive days of freezing or colder

23 days ending on 1/29/1930


Record for consecutive days of 20 degrees or colder

13 days ending on 2/4/1936



Record for consecutive days of freezing or colder

22 days ending on 12/30/1914


Record for consecutive days of 20 degrees or colder

15 days ending on 3/6/1960



Wind Chill Terms:

Wind Chill
Wind chill is not the actual temperature, but rather how wind and cold feel on exposed skin. As the wind increases, heat is carried away from the body at an accelerated rate, driving down the body temperature. Animals are also affected by wind chill; however cars, plants and other objects are not.

Frostbite is damage to the body tissue caused by extreme cold. A wind chill of -20° Fahrenheit (F) will cause frostbite in just 30 minutes. Frostbite causes a loss of feeling and a white or pale appearance in extremities, such as fingers, toes, ear lobes or the tip of the nose. If symptoms are detected, get medical help immediately! If you must wait for help, slowly rewarm affected areas. However, if the person is also showing signs of hypothermia, warm the body core before the extremities.

Hypothermia is a condition brought on when the body temperature drops to less than 95°F. It can kill. For those who survive, there are likely to be lasting kidney, liver, and pancreas problems. Warning signs include uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness, and apparent exhaustion. Take the person's temperature. If below 95°F, seek medical care immediately!


 Safety Tips:

Prepare your home and family

  • Prepare for possible isolation in your home by having sufficient heating fuel; regular fuel sources may be cut off. For example, store a good supply of dry, seasoned wood for your fireplace or wood-burning stove.
  • Insulate pipes with insulation or newspapers and plastic and allow faucets to drip a little during cold weather to avoid freezing.
  • Keep fire extinguishers on hand, and make sure everyone in your house knows how to use them. House fires pose an additional risk, as more people turn to alternate heating sources without taking the necessary safety precautions.
  • Learn how to shut off water valves (in case a pipe bursts).
  • Know ahead of time what you should do to help elderly or disabled friends, neighbors or employees.

Prepare your car

  • Check or have a mechanic check the following items on your car:
    • Antifreeze levels - ensure they are sufficient to avoid freezing.
    • Battery and ignition system - should be in top condition and battery terminals should be clean.
    • Brakes - check for wear and fluid levels.
    • Exhaust system - check for leaks and crimped pipes andrepair or replace as necessary. Carbon monoxide is deadly and usually gives no warning.
    • Fuel and air filters - replace and keep water out of the system by using additives and maintaining a full tank of gas.
    • Heater and defroster - ensure they work properly.
    • Lights and flashing hazard lights - check for serviceability.
    • Oil - check for level and weight. Heavier oils congeal more at low temperatures and do not lubricate as well.
    • Thermostat - ensure it works properly.
    • Windshield wiper equipment - repair any problems and maintain proper washer fluid level.
  • Install good winter tires. Make sure the tires have adequate tread. All-weather radials are usually adequate for most winter conditions. However, some jurisdictions require that to drive on their roads, vehicles must be equipped with chains or snow tires with studs.
  • Maintain at least a half tank of gas during the winter season.
  • Place a winter emergency kit in each car that includes:
    • a shovel
    • windshield scraper and small broom
    • flashlight
    • battery powered radio
    • extra batteries
    • water
    • snack food
    • matches
    • extra hats, socks and mittens
    • First aid kit with pocket knife
    • Necessary medications
    • blanket(s)
    • tow chain or rope
    • road salt and sand
    • booster cables
    • emergency flares
    • fluorescent distress flag

Dress for the Weather

  • Wear several layers of loose fitting, lightweight, warm clothing rather than one layer of heavy clothing. The outer garments should be tightly woven and water repellent.
  • Wear mittens, which are warmer than gloves.
  • Wear a hat.
  • Cover your mouth with a scarf to protect your lungs.


Winter Fires, Carbon Monoxide and Home Safety

 Too many preventable fires occur year-round, especially during the winter months. During this time Kansans and Missourians should examine heating methods, practice fire escape plans and check smoke detectors. Fires related to home heating are primarily responsible for the increased number of fires during the winter.

It is very importance to ensuring your home has working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms and that it is tested monthly to ensure they’re in working order. The advance warning these alarms provide can prevent tragedy by giving families enough time to get out of their house alive.

All gasoline and diesel generators create carbon monoxide, a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas that inhibits the body’s ability to absorb oxygen, a condition that can cause serious health problems, and even death, within a matter of minutes. The first symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning usually include headache, lightheadedness, dizziness and unexplained sleepiness.

Tips for winter storm fire safety:
• Use battery operated lanterns or flashlights instead of candles and oil lamps during power outages.

• Keep generators outside of occupied buildings and never run a generatorin an attached garage.

• Never use fossil fueled (propane, kerosene or heating oil) space heaters inan enclosed room; these heaters require a well ventilated area to preventthe accumulation of carbon monoxide.

• Keep chimneys, fireplaces and flues clean and never use a liquid fuel orcardboard to start a fire in a woodstove or fireplace.

• Do not use extension cords to power electric space heaters or use any electric heater that has the cord frayed, repaired or improperly replaced.

• Vehicle exhaust fumes contain large quantities of carbon monoxide. Neverrun a vehicle in a garage. If you are stuck in a vehicle, make sure theexhaust pipe is clear of snow, ice or debris and only run the engine for short periods to maintain warmth in the vehicle.


School Safety

Children can be especially susceptible to the dangers associated with winter weather. Their youthful enthusiasm often takes over when common sense should prevail. School administrators and principals need to be sensitive to the dangers winter weather can pose to children and be prepared. Winter weather procedures and practices need to be established before the onset of winter cold. The following items should be considered when formulating a winter weather safety plan:

•All schools should have ready access to current weather information. If the school is in a county covered by NOAA Weather Radio, that would be the best source. Commercial media can also be monitored. Arrangements can also be made with local law enforcement agencies to have critical winter weather forecasts relayed to the school.

All schools need to have a functional plan in regard to closures due to snow, ice, or extreme cold.

•During the winter months, guidelines need to be established regarding outside recess. Temperatures and wind chills need to be monitored and criteria set as to when outside recess will be allowed.

•School bus drivers should receive extra training on driving during winter weather. Snow and ice can often accumulate quickly and unexpectedly on roads creating dangerous driving conditions.

With many households having two working parents today, it may be necessary for some children to be brought to school early. Schools should make provisions to allow children inside school buildings as early as possible during cold weather.

For more winter weather safety information please see,

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