Gusty winds in the wake of a midweek Nor’easter sets the stage for a frigid weekend with potentially dangerous wind chills.
The storm system that rolled up the East Coast Wednesday into Thursday brought only a coating of fresh snow to the Carlisle area, but behind it comes brutal wind chills from gusts approaching 35 to 40 miles per hour, said Dan Tomaso, a meteorologist with ABC27.
The cold snap this weekend could trump the New Year’s Eve forecast, Tomaso said, noting that the mercury Friday morning could slip to about negative 10 degrees in parts of the Midstate.
Temperatures are expected to climb to a daytime high of about 16 degrees on Friday and 12 degrees on Saturday, Tomaso said. He added a warm-up is expected into the upper 30s Monday into Tuesday. This would be closer to the normal high for the region of 38 degrees and the normal low of 24 degrees.
The extreme cold broke a 100-year record early Wednesday morning with a temperature of minus one at Harrisburg International Airport in Middletown, Tomaso said. The old record low for Jan. 3 was four degrees.
With those temperatures, it’s vital to take precautions.
“The obvious thing is trying to keep out of the cold air as much as possible,” said Dr. Chad Jumper with Boiling Springs Family Medicine, UPMC Pinnacle.
Those who must go out in the cold should take special care to protect their extremities — fingers, toes, ears and nose, Jumper said. When the body temperature starts to drop, the body pulls blood from the extremities into its core to protect vital organs. That means wearing gloves, extra socks and even sunglasses to protect the eyes from the wind.
“Keep as many areas of your body covered as you can,” Jumper said.
Frigid temperatures can cause cell damage, as is seen in frostbite, or even death as the cold slows the heart rate. A skin color change to a white or gray color and cold, numb feelings are early signs of frostbite. Coordination issues and difficulty moving are also signals of impending danger from the cold.
“If you are outside and start to feel groggy, dizzy and fatigued, it would be a good idea to get inside,” Jumper said.
Dr. Kathy Purcell at Boiling Springs Animal Hospital said similar precautions should be taken for pets.
“Limiting the time outside for any dog that is really small is important,” Purcell said.
Smaller dogs may be further protected with coats and other cold weather gear made especially for them.
Purcell recommended that outside dogs be taken into a basement or other shelter to protect them from the wind. If they are used to being outside, they will be able to cope with temperatures as low as 20 or 30 degrees if they are protected from the wind.
“The biggest thing is shelter, just like for us,” she said.
The reality is, though, that dogs will need to go outside at some point during the deep chill. Purcell recommended that people not take their dogs out for recreational play when the temperature drops below 15, and that they pay special attention to the dog’s feet, ears, tails and lips for signs of frostbite.
Dogs with lighter-colored noses are susceptible to greater irritation from the cold, so owners are advised to coat the dog’s nose with protection like Chapstick or Vaseline and keep the dog’s nose moisturized.
Carlisle CARES has been preparing for the cold by taking measures to assure as many as possible can find a place to get warm.
“We try to do everything we can,” Executive Director Shari Bellish said.
For example, a homeless person who has not gone through the intake process for the center will be permitted to sit in the lobby of the resource center on West Penn Street. Usually, the center closes over meal times, but Bellish said it would stay open to allow people to come in from the cold.
“Basically, we become a warming station,” she said.
The shelter also implements a standby procedure to allow more people in the overnight shelter as space becomes available. Bellish said she also asks the churches that host the shelter if they would be willing to take additional people during cold snaps.
“Sometimes the churches are willing to let us squeeze in a couple more,” she said.
The capacity for the shelter, however, also depends upon the number of volunteers available to serve overnight. The shelter maintains a volunteer-to-guest ratio, and the number of guests must decrease if the number of volunteers decrease. If the organization can’t meet that ratio, it has to turn people away.
The cold weather comes at a time of year when Carlisle CARES is typically low on volunteers due to people traveling. Anyone interested in volunteering should contact Carlisle CARES at 717-249-1009.