Record wind chills expected to hit Western Pa.
By Aaron Aupperlee
Published: Saturday, Jan. 4, 2014, 10:24 a.m.
In some of the coldest places on Earth — Siberia; northern Canada; Fargo, N.D. — boiling water thrown into the air will freeze in midflight.
And on Monday night, folks around Pittsburgh can give it a try.
“We're going to do that here,” said Alicia Miller, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Moon.
The National Weather Service on Saturday issued a wind chill watch starting Monday afternoon as a blast of Arctic air from Canada is expected to drop temperatures to 10 to 15 below zero, and gusting winds of up to 30 mph would push wind chills to 30 to 45 below.
Historical records of wind chills do not exist, but Miller did not think the weather service had issued a wind chill watch for Western Pennsylvania.
On Tuesday, temperatures will hover between a high of 2 above and a low of 10 below zero. Wind chills will remain at 20 to 30 below, according to the weather service.
The wind chill watch remains in effect for through Wednesday morning.
“It's not too often that the very cold air from Canada comes this far south, especially because we have the lakes to moderate those temperatures,” Miller said.
Lake Erie, with water temperatures at about 33 degrees, could start to freeze — something it hasn't done in several years, Miller said.
The weather system heading toward Western Pennsylvania looks similar to a pattern that swept through the region in January 1994, bringing Pittsburgh its lowest temperature ever, minus 22, Miller said. The last time Pittsburgh hit minus 10 was January 2009.
Schools in Wisconsin have announced closings for Monday as wind chills there were expected to plummet to minus 40 to minus 55 degrees by Monday and Tuesday mornings, according to the weather service.
Pittsburgh Public Schools officials had not decided on Saturday whether to close schools here or operate on a delay, spokeswoman Ebony Pugh said.
“You definitely do begin to worry when you have wind and temperatures so cold and kids waiting outside,” Pugh said.
When wind chills drop to 30 below, frostbite can set in in 30 minutes, Miller said. Frostbite can form in as little as 10 minutes when the wind chill drops to 40 below. People who have to go outside should dress in layers, wear a hat, cover skin as much as possible and limit time spent in the elements.
Robert Gerlach, emergency management coordinator for the Hempfield Emergency Management Agency, suggested staying inside if at all possible.
“The main way to prevent cold-related injury or illness is to not go into that environment, obviously,” he said.
Mayor-elect Bill Peduto, who moved his inauguration ceremony scheduled for Monday indoors because of the predicted cold, said the city could open warming centers.
Allegheny County Emergency Services chief Alvin Henderson said the county will consider opening warming centers as well.
“Use common sense. Keep your wits about you, and please check on the elderly,” Henderson said. “It's times like this where neighbors have to help neighbors.”
Henderson warned against using alternative heating methods indoors, like kerosene heaters or make-shift fires.
Bortz Do It Best Hardware in Greensburg got a large shipment of ice-melt products Saturday, according to manager Heather Foster, 30, of Greensburg.
“When it gets this cold, we sell calcium chloride pellets more than anything,” Foster said.
The pellets work to temperatures as low as minus 25 degrees.
Don Williams, 46, of Greensburg said his concerns were for emergency medical staff who have to work outdoors in cold temperatures.
“They don't have a choice,” said Williams, a member of the Fort Allen Volunteer Fire Department in Hempfield, who was purchasing rock salt at Bortz on Saturday afternoon.
Gerlach said those staying at home should be prepared for any possible power outage by having extra blankets and extra heating sources, as well as an emergency kit with three to seven days' worth of medication, food and water.
Miller had a few tips for those trying to freeze water in midair: Use a pot of boiling water, throw the water away from people and bundle up.
Staff writers Bill Vidonic and Nicole Chynoweth contributed to this story. Aaron Aupperlee is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7986 or email@example.com.
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