Welcome To The Arctic!

January 7th, 2014 at 8:03 am by under Weather

Everybody is talking about the “Polar Vortex” of doom and how it has brought Arctic air to the Hampton Roads area.  I won’t lie…I’m not a fan of the term polar vortex.  It spawns an image in my mind of the Day after Tomorrow and the end of the world.  It is a real thing though.  It’s basically a very large area of cyclonic winds in the upper levels of the atmosphere.

Polar Vortex Drifts South

Polar Vortex Drifts South

They are typically located around the poles, but do drift around.  Here is an article with more on the subject: Polar vortex.  The cold air has poured through the Midwest into the Southeast.  So the change in the temperatures has been extreme.  In fact our temperatures have dropped over 50 degrees within 24 hours.

24 Hour Temperature Change

24 Hour Temperature Change

I haven’t seen this in the 10 years that I’ve been here.  I have seen it in Illinois though.  So this morning we started with temperatures in the lower teens.  Norfolk made it down to 14 already.   This was very close to the record low of 13 (1884).   Wind chills were in the negatives.

Wind Chills

Wind Chills

There are many school delays this morning.  However, the wind chills won’t be much better between 9 and 10am. Our Future  Trak forecast model is calling for 0 to -5 for a wind chills during that time:

Future Trak (Wind chills)

Future Trak (Wind chills)

We do have sunshine today, so that’s in our favor.  However, temperatures will not be climbing much.  We’ll be in the upper teens around midday, and high temperatures will top off in the low 20s this afternoon with teens north of the metro.  Winds will continue to blow out of the west at 10-20mph with gusts up to 30mph.  Wind chills will be in the single digits even this afternoon.  The coldest afternoon high recorded for this date was 28 degrees set back in 1978.  Today we will beat that with a forecast high of 21 expected.

Tonight we’ll have clear skies and the winds will lighten up.  So temperatures will probably be a little colder, but the wind chills will be a tad higher.  Make sense?  We’ll see lows in the single digits and teens, but the winds will only be west at 5-10mph.  So wind chills will be close to the temperatures.  During the day tomorrow we’ll see more sunshine with highs in the low 30s.  We’ll be in the low-mid 20s Wednesday night.  We finally will get above freezing on Thursday with highs in the 40s.

Here are some tips to try to protect yourself from the cold:

1. It goes without saying “bundle up”.  You need a good hat and gloves to keep warm.  Your body especially loses heat from the exposed areas.  So your hands, wrists, neck, head, and face are very vulnerable to losing heat.  Especially when you have wind which robs your body of it.  A scarf will really help.  If you don’t have a scarf and really need something, then use a towel.

2.  Dress in layers.  Air can get into the big burly coats by themselves.  However, when you dress in layers it creates smaller air pockets that trap body heat.  Also, it’s better when you are going in-and-out of buildings.  Layers will let you gear up/down appropriately.

3.  Bring in the pets.  Cold and wind do affect pets.  Those dog houses are not insulated (typically), and blankets can freeze.  So it’s best to bring them in the home.  I don’t know much about livestock, but my weather watcher (Donna in Blackwater) mentioned putting very thick blankets over the horses she tends to.

4.  It’s good to let your vehicle warm up for a bit.  While wind chills only affect the living, vehicles do get affected by extreme temperatures. If you do warm up your vehicle in your garage, then make sure you have plenty of ventilation.  Carbon Monoxide can build up and can kill you.

5. Be careful with space heaters.  Make sure they are not near curtains or other flammable objects.  Also be sure to shut them off when you leave for the day.

6.  Drip the faucets.  Especially if you have pipes in outer walls or crawl spaces.  If pipes freeze, then the ice inside will expand.  That force is enough to make pipes burst and let the water pour all over the house.  I’ve seen this happen before, and it can cost thousands of dollars in damage.  Letting the faucets drip will discourage freezing, and will relieve water pressure.

7.  Frostbite can happen.  That’s when your skin tissue freezes.  Your skin will turn red and it will become painful.  If this happens, then do not use hot water to heat up your hands/skin.  Use mild or warm water.

8.  Do not let kids play on ice.  Ice will be forming on many of our local ponds and small lakes.  The ice can’t be that thick yet, and kids are likely to fall through.

These are just a few tips to keep you safe.  It’s not dangerous outside unless you A. Take the cold for granted, or B. have to be outside for a long period of time.

Think warm thoughts and be safe.

Meteorologist: Jeremy Wheeler


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