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Deep Freeze Brings Dangerous Record-Breaking Cold to State College Area

by on January 07, 2014 7:20 AM

The State College area is in the midst of a record-breaking deep-freeze thanks to a dramatic explosion of arctic cold and dangerous wind chills.

The record low temperature for Jan. 7 was shattered early Tuesday morning, with a reading of nine-below zero. That's eight degrees colder than the previous record of one-below zero set in 1988.

Adding to the misery -- winds were out of the west at 23 mph with gusts up to 29 mph. The wind chill makes it feel like it's 35 below zero. In conditions like this you could experience frostbite in as little as 10 minutes.

A Wind Chill Warning posted by the NWS was posted at 10 p.m. Monday. The warning will remain in effect until 7 a.m. Wednesday.

It's so cold that the State College Area School District decided to cancel classes Tuesday. All district offices are closed. After-school activities are also canceled.

AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Tom Kines say you need to stay indoors if possible, "It's pretty brutal out there. If you don't have to go out there, don't. Keep your flesh covered. Don't leave anything exposed in this kind of weather. A lot of car batteries will be tested this morning." Kines isn't kidding. He says his own car wouldn't start.

What we're seeing isn't typical weather but it's not unheard of. Temperatures in State College hit 18 below zero back in January of 1994. But Kines adds, "It's unusual, no doubt." If you want to get warm, Kines recommends a trip to the South Pole where the temperature is six below zero this morning.

Lester Griel, a certified nurse practitioner with Mount Nittany Physician Group-Internal Medicine, says dressing in layers is vitally important in such severe cold weather.

"Dressing in layers is especially crucial. Minimize time spent outdoors, but if you must go outside, make certain that all exposed skin is covered," he says. "In addition to multiple layers, a warm hat, gloves, winter coat, scarf and boots are key."

The low temperatures and winds are particularly dangerous for young children and the elderly. They are more susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia, Griel says.

"Frostbite may occur to tissue or skin when blood circulation is limited to certain body parts such as fingers, toes, nose and ears due to excessively cold weather," he says. "Hypothermia may occur when one's overall body temperature decreases to the point necessary for adequate blood flow and body function.

Signs of hypothermia include excessive shivering, lack of coordination, slurred speech, confusion, drowsiness, weak pulse, shallow breathing and lack of concern about the cold.

It's also important to remember pets during the dangerously cold weather.

"When taking dogs outdoors, a vest or coat is important as well as boots to cover their paws," Griel says. "During especially cold days, bring outside pets indoors. Also, remember not to leave pets unattended in vehicles."

Griel also recommends a cold weather survival kit for homes and vehicles. Pack your vehicle kit with the following:

Warm blanket, first aid kit, jumper cables, ice scraper, waterproof matches, small, collapsible shovel, flashlight with batteries, dried food/granola bars, water, bag of sand or cat litter for tire traction

"At home, keep blankets, flashlights, food and water in a nearby area in case of a power outage," Griel says. "You should also make sure smoke detector batteries are functional, as accidental fires may occur during power outages due to unattended candles."

It's also important to check a vehicle's tire pressure, battery and fluid levels.

Additionally, anyone using a fireplace or a kerosene-style heater should have a functional carbon monoxide detector, Griel says. He says also to remember, during prolonged power outages, it is never safe to run a portable generator inside a home, garage, or similar structure that is attached to the home.

There is relief in sight. This extreme cold will begin to ease up in the next 24 hours. "Tomorrow, relatively speaking, should be a better day," says AccuWeather's Kines. "The winds should be lighter, temperatures should be 15 to 20 degrees higher. After that, the temperature trend should continue, probably into the 40s over the weekend."

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Jennifer Miller is a reporter for StateCollege.com. She has worked in journalism since 2005. She's covered news at the local, state and national level with an emphasis on crime and local government.
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