Winter Weather Safety & Terminology

POSTED: 09:43 PM MDT Jun 03, 2012    UPDATED: 11:53 AM MST Dec 28, 2010 
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE -

Exposure to cold can cause frostbite or hypothermia, and become life-threatening. Infants and the elderly are the most susceptible. When a winter storm approaches, stay inside, or seek shelter if caught outdoors.

Other tips to follow to better protect you and others:

In the Mountains and higher Terrain: Avalanches become a possibility during the winter, especially below steep slopes. Avalanches occasionally come down across roads, with little or no warning. Caution is advised when traveling along avalanche prone roads, especially after heavy snow has fallen or during periods of rapid snowmelt.

Roads which appear clear in the wintertime may actually be coated with a thin layer of ice, commonly called black ice. This nearly invisible ice layer can cause you to rapidly lose control of your vehicle. Black ice is most common during the nighttime hours into very early morning. If you detect black ice, reduce your speed!

Cold and its Effects on You: Wind Chill: this is not the actual temperature, but rather how wind and cold combined feel on exposed skin. As the wind increases, heat is carried away from the body at an accelerated rate, thus lowering your body temperature. Animals are also affected by wind chill, but cars, plants and other objects are not.

Frostbite: this is damage to body tissue due to exposure to extreme cold. A wind chill of -20 degrees Fahrenheit 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, ears and even the tip of your nose. If symptoms are detected, get medical help immediately. If you must wait for help, slowly re-warm the affected areas. If the person is also showing signs of hypothermia, warm the body core before the extremities.

Hypothermia: this is a condition brought on when the body temperatures drops to less than 95 degrees Fahrenheit. 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'ss temperature, and if it is below 95F, seek medical care immediately.