How low will it go?

Published 8:42 am Thursday, February 19, 2015

The calendar says that the winter of 2015 will end in one month. However, before it departs, it may go down in history as one of the coldest on record.

A powerful cold front, accompanied by the most frigid weather of the season, moved through eastern North Carolina on Wednesday night. Despite sunny skies Thursday and Friday, the air temperature will struggle to reach 20 degrees both days. Wind chill values are expected as low as minus 11 degrees.

Nighttime temps will flirt with the all-time record lows for the Roanoke-Chowan area. Thanks to clear skies overnight, which allow any radiant heating from the day to escape, the low on Thursday night is forecasted at 2 degrees above zero. Friday’s low temp is predicted at 9 degrees above.

According to the State Climate Office, the weather reporting station in Jackson reported the all-time record low (minus 8 degrees) for the Roanoke-Chowan area on Jan. 21, 1985. That was the same day that Mt.Mitchell in the western part of the state recorded North Carolina’s all-time record low of minus 34 degrees.

It was minus 6 degrees on successive nights (Jan. 30-31) last year at the Jackson weather station.

The current round of frigid weather is traced to a branch of the polar vortex diving southeast and joining a surface cold front, thus creating a deep layer of bitterly cold air.

While stating it has adequate resources to keep the electricity flowing in the extreme cold snap, officials with Roanoke Electric Cooperative (REC), which serves the local area, is asking its members to voluntarily conserve electricity. That is in an effort to prevent unnecessary strain on energy resources.

“In addition to the strain on the system, frigid temps can place record electricity demand and increase wholesale power costs. The cooperative thanks members for their patience and their help.  Warmer days are coming soon,” REC officials stated on the co-op’s website.

REC members can help to reduce demand on the electric system by:

Turning off unnecessary lights;

Lowering thermostats;

Turning off unnecessary electronic equipment; and

Postponing use of washer and dryer, if possible.

If there is a loss of power, REC officials suggest unplugging all appliances and leave only one light on to prevent a power surge when the electricity is restored.

For those having to be outside on Thursday or Friday, it is recommended they wear several layers of warm, loose-fitting clothing. Those exposed to extreme cold for prolonged periods can develop hypothermia, a potentially dangerous drop in body temperature. Normal body temperature averages 98.6 degrees. With hypothermia, core temperature drops below 95 degrees. In severe hypothermia, core body temperature can drop to 82 degrees or lower.

According to www.webmd, hypothermia symptoms for adults include extreme shivering, slow, shallow breathing, confusion and memory loss, drowsiness or exhaustion, slurred or mumbled speech, loss of coordination (fumbling hands, stumbling steps), and a slow, weak pulse. Infants with hypothermia will have cold-to-touch, bright red skin and unusually low energy.

Frostbite is also a concern in frigid weather. It is highly recommended to wear gloves and insulated socks to help keep your extremities covered. Using a cap, hat or toboggan will limit the amount of heat escaping from your head.

Other safety considerations during extremely cold weather include:

Place indoor space heaters at least three feet from anything that can burn, including curtains and furniture;

Supervise children and pets at all times when a portable space heater is in use;

Always turn off space heaters before going to sleep;

Never use a gas or charcoal barbecue grill inside any enclosed area;

Never leave burning candles unattended;

Install a smoke alarm near sleeping areas;

If you don’t have central heat, get out extra blankets. Also, keep windows closed and place rolled towels at the base of a window or door where there are drafts; and

Check on elderly neighbors.

It’s also highly recommended to bring all pets indoors, or provide them with plenty of warm bedding (out of the wind) if left outside.

The cold snap is expected to last into Saturday, where highs are expected in the upper 30’s. Rain is likely on Sunday with highs in the mid 50’s.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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