Cold Weather Dangers – What Louisianans Need to Watch For
Residents of Lafayette, Baton Rouge, Lake Charles, and New Orleans Louisiana very seldom have to consider just how dangerous extreme cold weather can be. Most of the time our "cold weather" issues come from a light glazing of ice and snow every four or five years or broken pipes brought on by subfreezing temperatures.
This upcoming Christmas cold snap will be different. In fact, it will likely create some of the coldest wind chill readings the I-10 corridor has seen in at least a generation. The coldest temperature ever recorded in the state was back in February 1899 in Minden. While this weekend's cold snap won't come close to that record, much of the state will experience temperatures and wind chill readings that are 20 to 30 degrees the norm for this time of year.
If you're not familiar with what "wind chill" is it's basically this,
Wind Chill is a term used to describe what the air temperature feels like to the human skin due to the combination of cold temperatures and winds blowing on exposed skin.
That's the definition according to the National Weather Service. Based on the forecast for Lafayette, Lake Charles, and Baton Rouge wind chills of 0 to 10 degrees will be common across the region on Friday morning. With readings like that there is a significant danger of frostbite or hypothermia. Those are not normally a concern for our part of the country, so here's what to look for.
What Are the Signs of Frostbite?
According to the Mayo Clinic, the warning signs for frostbite include tingling or numbness in the areas of the body that have been exposed to the cold. The skin might look reddish or bluish-white. The skin will also take on a waxy or hard-looking sheen. A person experiencing frostbite might also appear to move in a clumsy fashion because the joints and muscles will stiffen in the cold.
Severe frostbite can result in permanent damage to the skin and muscles, this is not something to be taken lightly. Parents should be cognizant of how long children are spending outside in the cold. Even exposure for a very short period of time can be dangerous.
How Do You Treat Frostbite?
The Mayo Clinic suggests you gently warm the affected area for 20 to 30 minutes until the skin tone returns to its normal state. You'll want to use warm but not hot water. In cases where you can't soak the affected area the application of a warm towel or hand cloth is suggested. It is not recommended that you warm frostbitten skin with direct heat from a heater, fireplace, or heating pad. Because the skin might be numb, burns are possible if you use this method.
What Are the Signs of Hypothermia?
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the signs of hypothermia include shivering, a feeling of exhaustion, and confusion. A person suffering from hypothermia might also appear drunk. In other words, their speech could be slurred, they might appear drowsy, and they might have difficulty holding onto things or even walking.
Hypothermia occurs when the body's core temperature drops below 95 degrees. The normal temperature is 98.6 and while that might not seem to be a drastic difference in temperatures, it can be deadly.
How Do You Treat Hypothermia?
The first step is to get the individual out of the cold and into a warmer environment. If they're wearing wet clothes remove those clothes and cover the person in blankets. If possible provide warm beverages for them to drink. Also, the application of warm compresses is suggested. The warm compress should be dry and not wet and as in the case of frostbite, don't use direct heat such as a heating pad or hot water bottle, this could lead to burns if extreme caution is not used.
Hunters who will be out in the woods this Christmas weekend should be mindful of this information and take precautions against the wind and subfreezing temperatures. Remember it only takes a few minutes of exposure to cause big problems, just make sure you're bundled up and ready for the cold.
And in case you're wondering, by New Year's Eve temperatures across the region will return to the 70s so this cold snap won't last long but while it's here we should all take it very seriously for the next several days.
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