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Life threatening winter weather – Wind chill, frostbite and hypothermia

Thursday, October 19th, 2017 4:59am MST
Wind chill is a life threatening weather danger that is often ignored or underestimated. (AP Photo)

Wind chill is a life threatening weather danger that is often ignored or underestimated.

Winter weather can not only be trying on the mind and soul, it also presents very real dangers to the human body.  Extreme wind chills can be deadly and bring on the outset of frostbite and hypothermia.  Here in Colorado, all residents should be aware of these hazards and be prepared to deal with them.

In this fourth in a series on Winter Weather Preparedness from the National Weather Service, ThorntonWeather.com helps you understand wind chill and how to protect yourself from frostbite and hypothermia.

PUBLIC INFORMATION STATEMENT
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE DENVER/BOULDER CO
ISSUED BY NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE GOODLAND KS
600 AM MDT THU OCT 19 2017

Extreme wind chill – Potentially life-threatening and often overlooked

Extremely cold air comes every winter in at least part of the country and affects millions of people across the United States. The arctic air, combined with brisk winds, can lead to dangerously cold wind chill values. The Wind Chill Index helps you determine when dangerous conditions develop that could lead to frostbite or hypothermia. It takes into account heat loss from the human body to its surroundings during cold and windy weather. The calculation utilizes wind speed in miles per hour and temperature in degrees Fahrenheit. For example, a temperature of minus 5 degrees occurring with a 20 mph wind gives a wind chill near minus 30 degrees. This means that your body will lose heat at the same rate as it would if the air temperature were minus 30 degrees with no wind. Wind Chill values near minus 25 degrees mean that frostbite is possible within 15 minutes.

  • How does the wind affect wind chill?  See the chart below.

Frostbite is the freezing of skin and the body tissue just beneath it. It first affects exposed body tissue where blood circulation may be limited such as your fingers, toes, nose and ears. To minimize frostbite, make sure all body parts are well covered. When frostbite starts, feeling is lost in the affected area and the frozen tissue will take on a white or pale appearance. If you suspect you are experiencing frostbite, hold the frostbitten area closely against warm skin to return blood flow and warmth to the affected area.

Hypothermia is a dangerously low body temperature and is the most common winter weather killer. When you hear of a hiker, climber, hunter or a stranded traveler perishing from cold weather exposure, hypothermia was the cause. Most people are surprised to learn that hypothermia deaths can occur with temperatures between 30 and 50 degrees. If you or your clothing are wet, then hypothermia becomes even more likely.

Warning signs of hypothermia include uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, slurred speech and drowsiness. Immediate medical attention should be given to victims suspected of suffering from hypothermia. If no help is available, the victim should be warmed slowly with warm liquids along with dry clothing and blankets.

The National Weather Service will issue wind chill advisories and warnings when a deadly combination of wind and cold air threaten. To learn more about wind chill, visit the national weather service internet site using lower case letters:  http://weather.gov/om/windchill.

When cold weather threatens, follow these tips for survival:

Stay dry, wet clothing results in much faster heat loss from your body. Wear waterproof insulated boots.

Stay covered, wear mittens or gloves and wear a hat. At least half of your body heat is lost if your head is not covered.

Dress layered, trapped air between loose fitting clothing helps to insulate.

Stay informed, have a portable NOAA weather radio nearby to keep you up-to-date with the latest forecasts and warnings. Use wind chill temperatures to guide you in dressing properly for the outdoors. On very cold days, minimize your exposure to the outdoors if possible.

Wind Chill Chart

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Another very mild, dry day for Thornton’s Thursday

Thursday, October 19th, 2017 4:46am MST

We continue our streak of unseasonably warm days with another today. We will see a few more clouds than yesterday but temperatures should push to nearly 15 degrees above normal.

Clear skies start things off then with some moisture aloft, a few clouds will arrive later in the morning. They won’t be numerous enough to be particularly intrusive however. Winds will be light and out of the south, no precipitation will be seen. In terms of temperatures highs will push into the upper 70s. Average for the date is 64 degrees.

Tonight, partly cloudy skies will be above with lows in the mid-40s.

Keep an eye on current conditions here.

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High winds a major threat in Colorado during the winter

Wednesday, October 18th, 2017 6:00am MST
Winter winds can not only make it miserable to be outside, they can also be dangerous.

Winter winds can not only make it miserable to be outside, they can also be dangerous.

As we often experience, high winds in Colorado can cause conditions to deteriorate rapidly.  They present a very real danger to life and property, especially when coupled with other winter conditions like snow.

Why does it seem like we get so much wind in the winter?  What causes this?  How can you prepare and protect yourself and your property?

In this third in a series on winter weather preparedness from the National Weather Service, ThorntonWeather.com helps you understand why we receive so much wind and how to prepare for it.

PUBLIC INFORMATION STATEMENT
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE BOULDER CO
ISSUED BY NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE PUEBLO CO
600 AM MDT WED OCT 18 2017

…WIDESPREAD HIGH WINDS VISIT COLORADO DURING THE WINTER…

This week through October 21st is Winter Weather Preparedness Week in Colorado.

The two main causes of high winds in Colorado during the cold season are the air pressure difference between strong low pressure and cold high pressure systems, and Chinook winds developing across the Front Range and other eastern mountain ranges.

» Click here to read the rest of High winds a major threat in Colorado during the winter

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More clouds Wednesday but temperatures remain unseasonably warm

Wednesday, October 18th, 2017 5:00am MST

Not much of a change in the pleasant weather we have been enjoying. Temperatures will continue to be well above normal today but we will have some cloud cover for at least the first part of the day.

We start out the day with mostly to partly sunny skies courtesy of a wave cloud. That should break down by late morning giving us clearer skies above. Conditions will remain calm and dry. High temperatures today will top out in the mid-70s.

Tonight, mostly clear skies will be above and lows should drop to the low to mid-40s.

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Dog Hailed as Hero After Refusing to Leave Goats Alone in Wildfires

Tuesday, October 17th, 2017 12:43pm MST

As Robert Handel and his family drove away from their burning neighborhood, they were certain that their beloved dog Odin and their 8 goats would also fall prey to the wildfires. So imagine their surprise – and relief – when they returned the next day to find Odin and the goats were safe and sound. » Click here to read the rest of Dog Hailed as Hero After Refusing to Leave Goats Alone in Wildfires

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Winter weather – What does that weather warning mean?

Tuesday, October 17th, 2017 5:00am MST
You have seen and heard the warnings but do you know what they really mean?

You have seen and heard the warnings but do you know what they really mean?

We all are familiar with the crawls on the TV screen or the announcements on the radio for winter weather advisories such as Winter Storm Watch, Blizzard Warning, Freeze Warning and more. But, how many of us really know what those mean? There is very specific criteria the National Weather Service follows in issuing these watches and warnings and there are important differences between all of them.

In this second in a series on Winter Weather Preparedness from the National Weather Service, ThorntonWeather.com helps you understand what all of these mean so you can be better prepared.

PUBLIC INFORMATION STATEMENT
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE BOULDER CO
600 AM TUE OCT 17 2017

From the National Weather Service:

What does that warning mean?

When a warning is issued during the winter season, will you know what it means, and will you know how to respond? During this Colorado Winter Weather Preparedness Week, please become familiar with our list of potentially life-saving winter weather products.

This statement contains warning and advisory criteria for Colorado east of the continental divide. Criteria west of the divide will be provided today in a separate issuance by the Grand Junction forecast office.

Outlooks

A Hazardous Weather Outlook is issued daily by each National Weather Service office serving Colorado. The outlook provides information on potentially hazardous weather out to 7 days into the future. Also, the Weather Story, a graphic of expected hazardous weather, is posted daily on National Weather Service web sites serving Colorado.

Watches and Warnings

A Winter Storm Watch is issued when hazardous winter storm conditions are possible within the next 3 to 4 days, but the timing, intensity, or occurrence may still be uncertain.

In contrast, a Winter Storm Warning is issued for potentially life-threatening winter storm conditions, such as heavy snowfall or a combination of snowfall and blowing snow, which are likely to occur within the next 1 to 2 days.

Warning criteria for heavy snow is defined by the following amounts.

  • For the mountains – 8 inches of snow accumulation in 12 hours or 12 or more inches in 24 hours.
  • For the lower elevations – 6 inches of snow accumulation in 12 hours or 8 or more inches in 24 hours.

A Blizzard Warning is issued when the following conditions are expected to occur for at least 3 hours:

  • Sustained winds of 35 mph or greater.
  • Considerable falling and/or drifting snow lowering
  • Visibilities to less than a quarter mile.

A high wind warning is issued:

  • Mountains…sustained winds 50 mph or more, or gusts of at least 75 mph.
  • Lower Elevations…sustained winds of 40 mph or more, or gusts of at least 58 mph

A Wind Chill Warning will be issued for the following wind chill temperatures:

  • Mountains…minus 35 degrees Fahrenheit or colder.
  • Lower Elevations…minus 25 degrees Fahrenheit or colder.

A Dust Storm Warning will be issued for the following conditions:

  • Visibility reduced to 1/4 mile or less in blowing dust and sustained winds of 25 mph or greater for at least one hour.

Advisories

Advisories for winter weather are issued for potentially hazardous conditions which are considered more of a nuisance than a life-threatening situation. However, if caution is not taken the advisory events could become life-threatening

This week is Winter Weather Preparedness Week in Colorado. Public information statements will be issued throughout the week to give safety information and help you know how to respond when winter weather threatens.

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Clear skies, calm conditions and lots of sun for Thornton’s Tuesday

Tuesday, October 17th, 2017 4:56am MST

Days like we are experiencing this week are what we should have been seeing back in September when it was so cold and wet. Well, no matter when they arrive, they are welcome for sure.

We start out the day with clear skies and should be sunny throughout the day today other than a few high clouds here and there. We start out with a bit of a chill in the air but then will warm nicely with highs pushing close to the 80 degree mark. Winds will be light and out of the south, conditions dry.

Tonight skies will remain mostly clear with lows around 43 degrees.

Enjoy the mild weather!

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Thornton’s workweek starts off with sun, mild temps

Monday, October 16th, 2017 5:05am MST

We are looking to have a string of days with fantastic weather. A high pressure ridge has built up and that will bring us unseasonably warm temperatures lasting through the workweek.

For today, sunny skies start us off and there may be a cloud here and there through the day but nothing that will block the light for any amount of time. Conditions will be calm and dry. Temperatures will be topping out in the mid-70s, about 10 degrees above normal for the date. Tonight skies remain clear with lows dipping to the low 40s.

As for the rest of the week, look for similar conditions to last through Friday. On Saturday the ridge breaks down and a trough moves through leading to cooler temps and perhaps a chance for rain. More details in the extended forecast here.

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Winter travel safety – Ensure you and your vehicle are ready

Monday, October 16th, 2017 5:05am MST
Are you and your vehicle ready for the winter weather ahead?

Are you and your vehicle ready for the winter weather ahead?

Before hitting the road, Coloradans need to ensure that they and their vehicles are prepared should inclement weather strike.

ThorntonWeather.com presents the first in a series from the National Weather Service (NWS) as part of Winter Weather Preparedness Week has declared by Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper.  Check back throughout the week for more winter preparedness stories.

Today’s message from the NWS highlights the importance of having a proper emergency kit in your vehicle and should the worst-case scenario occur where you get stuck, what you should do to survive.

PUBLIC INFORMATION STATEMENT
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE GRAND JUNCTION CO
601 AM MDT MON OCT 16 2017

Winter Travel Safety

Winter Weather Preparedness Week continues through Saturday, October 21st as proclaimed by Governor John Hickenlooper. Before winter weather arrives in earnest it is highly recommended that you prepare your car or truck for winter travel.

A well equipped vehicle has adequate tires, tire chains, tow rope, sand or cat litter for traction, shovel, tool kit, windshield scraper and brush, battery cables, first aid kit, flashlight, extra batteries, blankets and/or sleeping bags, extra clothing, candles, water-proof matches, high calorie packaged food for quick energy and an empty can to melt snow for drinking.

The best way to prevent treacherous winter travel is to avoid it. This can be done by staying informed about current weather and road conditions as well as the latest weather forecasts. Information on road conditions in Colorado is available on the web at www.cotrip.org or from the toll free number 1-877-315-7623. When calling from anywhere in Colorado, dialing 511 will also access the Colorado road reports. Additionally, a free smartphone application, CDOT Mobile, is available.

If you should become stranded during a winter storm, stay with your vehicle an d do not panic. If accompanied by others, take turns sleeping. Run the motor every hour for about ten minutes to maintain warmth, but keep windows open a little to prevent the buildup of carbon monoxide. Make sure the exhaust pipe is not blocked. Keep the car visible with brightly colored cloths tied to the side view mirrors, door handles, or external antenna. At night, turn on the dome light when running the engine. Exercise periodically by vigorously moving arms, legs, toes and fingers.

In the mountains, avalanches become a possibility in the winter, especially below steep slopes. Avalanches occasionally come down across roads, with little or no warning. However, avalanche control work is performed on many avalanche prone roads in Colorado, making the roads safer to travel. Caution is advised when traveling along avalanche prone roads, especially during and shortly after a heavy snowstorm or during periods of rapid snowmelt.

Very strong downslope winds occur at times mainly along the front range of Colorado. These Chinook and Bora winds can have gusts exceeding 100 mph. Persons traveling in light weight or high profile vehicles should avoid travel during these strong wind events especially on north-south oriented roads.

Roads which appear to be clear in the wintertime may actually be coated with a thin layer of ice, commonly known as 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. If you detect black ice you should reduce your speed.

Please follow these winter travel safety recommendations which could save your life.

 

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October 15 to October 21: This week in Denver weather history

Sunday, October 15th, 2017 7:37pm MST
This Week In Denver Weather History

October 15 to October 21: This Week in Denver Weather History

Snow and wind are two common conditions we see this time of year and our look back at this week in Denver weather history certainly has those type of events. Also notable is a surprising October hail storm 13 years ago that went into the books as one of the costliest in history.

From the National Weather Service:

13-16

In 1873…smoke from several large forest fires in the mountains made the air very hazy in the city.

15

In 1871…a terrible wind occurred during a snow storm in the foothills above Boulder. Damage was minor.

In 1878…high winds reached sustained speeds of 60 mph at times.

In 1911…post-frontal northwest winds were sustained to 41 mph with gusts to 43 mph.

In 1948…strong winds struck the Boulder area. Winds averaged 50 mph at Valmont just east of Boulder. Wind gusts in excess of 60 mph were recorded at the Boulder airport. Wind gusts to 40 mph briefly reduced the visibility to 1 1/2 miles in blowing dust at Stapleton Airport.

In 1980…a rare October tornado touched down in Boulder… Damaging a vocational training building and throwing three nearby cars together damaging them extensively. A mile and half away several camper vehicles were thrown 200 feet. The storm also produced 1 inch diameter hail in the Boulder area.

15-16

In 1928…a thunderstorm produced hail shortly after midnight on the 15th. Rain changed to snow by evening. Through the afternoon of the 16th…the heavy snowfall totaled 7.3 inches in the city. North winds were sustained to 23 mph on the 15th.

In 1984…the heaviest October snowstorm in several years hit eastern Colorado with a vengeance. The storm was known as the “Bronco Blizzard” since it occurred during a nationally televised Monday Night Football game in Denver. One to two feet of snow fell near the foothills in west metro Denver with 2 to 3 feet in the foothills. Wind gusts up to 55 mph whipped the snow into drifts as high as 4 feet. The storm closed schools…roads…and airports. I-70 was closed both east and west of Denver. I-25 was closed south to Colorado Springs. Flights were delayed for several hours at Stapleton International Airport. Power outages were widespread. Snowfall totaled 9.2 inches at Stapleton International Airport where north winds gusting as high as 40 mph caused frequent surface visibilities of 1/4 to 1/2 mile in moderate to heavy snow and blowing snow overnight. The high temperature of only 35 degrees on the 15th was a record low maximum for the date.

15-17

In 1989…an autumn snowstorm hit metro Denver with 2 to 6 inches of snow. Snowfall totaled 4.4 inches at Stapleton International Airport where the maximum snow depth on the ground was only 3 inches due to melting and north winds gusted to 25 mph on the 15th. The heavy wet snow caused leafy branches to sag onto power lines…resulting in a number of power outages. Five thousand homes were blacked out in Boulder on the 16th. Up to a foot of snow fell in the higher foothills with 19 inches recorded at Echo Lake.

16

In 1878…high winds reached sustained speeds of 60 mph.

In 1998…one of the costliest hail storms to ever hit metro Denver caused an estimated total of 87.8 million dollars in damage to homes…commercial buildings…and motor vehicles. At the time the storm was ranked as the 7th costliest ever. The hailstorm…rare for so late in the season…began over portions of Arvada…Wheat Ridge…and northwest Denver where mostly pea sized hail accumulated up to a depth of 6 inches near I-70. Several accidents were attributed… At least in part…to the hailstorm. Snowplows had to be called out to clear several city streets. The storm intensified as it moved to the east…into the Denver and Aurora areas. Large hail…up to 2.00 inches in diameter pounded east and southeast metro Denver. Two inch diameter hail fell in the city of Denver and at Buckley Field. Hail as large as 1 1/2 inches was measured in south Denver with 1 inch diameter hail in northern Aurora.

In 1999…upslope conditions produced snow across metro Denver with heavy amounts in the nearby foothills. Snowfall totals included: 9 inches at Eldorado Springs; 8 inches at Genesee… Golden Gate Canyon…Littleton and near Morrison; 7 inches near Nederland; and 6 inches in Louisville. Snowfall totaled 3.6 inches at the site of the former Stapleton International Airport.

16-17

In 1990…strong downslope winds raked the eastern foothills. Wind gusts from 60 to 75 mph were common. Strong winds in metro Denver resulted in wave damage to a dock used to moor several private sail boats at Cheery Creek Reservoir. Damage was confined to the dock and two anchor cables. A northwest wind gust to 43 mph was recorded at Stapleton International Airport.

» Click here to read the rest of October 15 to October 21: This week in Denver weather history

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