Deep freeze: Temps plummet, area schools closed

cpassant@centredaily.comJanuary 6, 2014 

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    Stay safe with the cold

    Cover. Wear a hat or other protective covering to prevent body heat from escaping from your head, face and neck. Cover your hands with mittens instead of gloves. Mittens are more effective than gloves because mittens keep your fingers in contact with one another.

    Overexertion. Avoid activities that would cause you to sweat a lot. The combination of wet clothing and cold weather can cause you to lose body heat more quickly.

    Layers. Wear loose-fitting, layered, lightweight clothing. Outer clothing made of tightly woven, water-repellent material is best for wind protection. Wool, silk or polypropylene inner layers hold body heat better than cotton.

    Dry. Stay as dry as possible. Get out of wet clothing as soon as possible. Be especially careful to keep your hands and feet dry, as it’s easy for snow to get into mittens and boots.

Centre County was enveloped by dangerous cold Monday evening, bringing subzero temperatures and a bitter wind chill.

By Monday evening Bellefonte Area, Bald Eagle Area, Penns Valley Area, Philipsburg-Osceola Area and State College Area school districts had announced that schools would be closed Tuesday. NHS School in Ferguson Township also is closed Tuesday, as are Park Forest Day School and Young Scholars of Central Pennsylvania Charter School. Penns Valley school district announced it was closing Tuesday.

The National Weather Service in State College issued a wind chill warning from 10 p.m. Monday to 7 a.m. Wednesday. Temperatures were expected to drop as low as 5 degrees below zero Monday night and only warm up to 6 degrees Tuesday, according to AccuWeather in Ferguson Township.

Tuesday night, temperatures will fall to 2 degrees and, on Wednesday, warm up to just below freezing for the day’s high, forecasts show.

But the real story is the wind.

Wind chill is the actual temperature combined with the wind, which creates a colder feel and speeds the rate of heat loss from an exposed person. The wind chill Tuesday is expected to reach 20 to 30 degrees below zero, and perhaps 10 degrees colder than that in higher elevations, said WJAC-TV meteorologist Josh Fosbrink.

“It looks like the coldest air we’ve had in 20 years,” Fosbrink said.

In 1994, State College saw a historic 18 degrees below zero, according to the NWS. In only a few years since 1994 did the area see temperatures below zero, and none lower than negative 5.

“Basically, we’re seeing a polar vortex that has been dropping in across Canada, and it’s pulling down with the arctic chill from way up north,” Fosbrink said. “It looks like it will be short-lived, only about 48 hours.”

The cold air comes from a system that’s put the entire midsection of the country into a deep freeze, with temperatures plummeting into the negative 30s in Fargo, N.D., and wind chill warnings reaching from Montana to the Deep South.

“This is pretty fast-moving,” Fosbrink said. “You’ll get these patterns there — four, five days in a row. But a warm front will be moving in later in the week as winds turn south and pull up warm southern air.”

Temperatures in Centre County could be back in the 40s toward the weekend, he said. On Thursday, expect a bit of snow.

The wind chill warning issued by NWS means frostbite and hypothermia are possible for those exposed to the cold without proper attire. Hypothermia happens when a person’s body temperature drops below the normal of 98.6 degrees to 95 degrees or lower. When that happens, the heart, nervous system and vital organs can fail, according to the Mayo Clinic. Death can result.

Children and the elderly are at an increased risk of hypothermia. To prevent it, people should avoid the cold. But those who must be outside should wear layers, stay dry and avoid overexertion.

For anyone who wants to celebrate the cold, the State College Spikes will be handing out free slices of ice cream cake at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.

From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Spikes staff will be handing out the cake in front of Off the Rack Outfitters team store off Porter Road.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Follow Christopher Passante on Twitter @ChrisPassanteCDT

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