Arctic weather coming: "It's going to be brutal" - Star Exponent: Local News

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Friday, October 24, 2014

Arctic weather coming: "It's going to be brutal"

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Posted: Monday, January 6, 2014 3:05 pm | Updated: 3:52 am, Tue Jan 7, 2014.

  The good news is it's going to stay dry Tuesday in Culpeper.

  The bad news is it's going to be bitterly cold with wind chill values reaching as low as negative 12 degrees.

  A wind chill advisory remains in effect from 6 p.m. today through 6 p.m. Tuesday meaning frost bite and hypothermia are more likely to occur.  In anticipation of the cold weather, Culpeper County Public Schools cancelled classes for Tuesday.

  "When exposed to cold temperatures, your body begins to lose heat faster than it can be produced causing cold weather health problems," said State Health Commissioner Cynthia Romero of frost bite and hypothermia. "Neither of these conditions should be taken lightly and all Virginians should take the necessary steps to lower their risk of exposure."

   Local community groups stand ready to assist when temperatures plummet even as forecasters say it's going to be colder than it's been in 20 years.

  "This weather system is coming from northern Canada, near the North Pole - cold air will bottle up there over snow pack then you will get low pressure systems accompanying cold fronts moving down across the United States," said National Weather Service meteorologist Dan Hofmann in the Sterling office. "This one is particularly strong and it's bringing down a lot of that cold air with it."

  She said the extreme cold would last through the day and night Tuesday before temperatures slowly increased with Wednesday's high temperature in the low 30s, just slightly above normal.

  "It just so happens there's a lot of heavy snow pack up near the Pole so it's much colder this winter and one of these strong fronts was able to grab a lot of that cold air and bring it right across anywhere east of the Rockies," Hofmann said.

  The homeless and the elderly are most susceptible to the negative impacts of extreme cold, said Warren Jenkins, interim director of Culpeper County Emergency Services. He said the agency would decide Tuesday morning if the frigid weather warrants the opening of an emergency shelter in the Salem Fire Department along Sperryville Pike.

  "If we start getting calls, we will certainly put something in motion to protect the citizens," Jenkins said.

  Overnight, those in need of shelter can access the cold weather ministry offered through the Culpeper County Ministerial Association. St. Luke's Lutheran Church on Old Rixeyville Road will shelter and feed people starting around 5:15 p.m. each night this week.

  Those who need transportation to St. Luke's can meet outside the Culpeper Food Closet off of Commerce Street to catch a bus to the warming shelter. A hot dinner will be served at 6 p.m. and cots and bedding provided to guests.

  Breakfast is at 6:30 a.m. and those who need it will be provided a bag lunch.

  In normal circumstances, the warming shelter clears out by 7 a.m. But because of Tuesday's extreme cold, guests will be able to stay in the St. Luke's facility until 10 a.m., said Paul Oesterreicher with Church on the Rise. The church he attends on Sperryville Pike will provide volunteers all week to man the shelter at St. Luke's.

 "If there are people in a community that are in need, this is what a church should do," said Oesterreicher of why he volunteered to help out.

  First-time guests of the warming shelter will need to fill out a registration form before receiving the services.

  To lower the risk of frost bite or hypothermia, folks who have to be out in the cold should wear gloves, hats, scarves and snow boots and dress in layers. The Virginia Department of Health also advises staying dry, limiting your time outdoors and to not ignore shivering, an important first sign that the body is losing heat.

  Signs of frostbite include loss of feeling and white or pale appearance in extremities such as fingers, toes, ear lobes and the tip of the nose. Signs of hypothermia include uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness and apparent exhaustion.

  Pets, like people, need extra attention in extreme temperatures.

  "To us, it's common sense - you keep the animals inside," said Cher Pennington, officer manager with the Humane Society of Culpeper. "If you're cold, the animal is cold."

  When walking dogs in cold weather, she advised taking precautions to protect the animal's sensitive paw pads. De-icing chemicals can cause infection, irritation or tenderness, Pennington said, mentioning that local pet stores sell dog boots for protection against damaging chemicals.

  For outdoor animals, she recommended not using aluminum bowls for water to prevent a pet's tongue from freezing on the metal and to use hot or cold water for hydration.

  "Ideally, bring the animal into the garage to get out of the elements," Pennington said. "If they have to be outside, make sure the dog house is thoroughly bedded with straw or hay."

  Don't have a doggie sweater? Take an old human sweatshirt and cut it down to size to fit your pooch, she said.

  Outdoor cats can get shelter from the cold in a Styrofoam cooler, lined with hay, and taped shut with a hole cut into it for ingress and egress, she said.

  "Try to get them inside if you can," Pennigton emphasized. "It's going to be brutal."



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