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Extreme Cold

Extreme cold exists when temperatures are significantly colder than average for that time of year. Extremely cold temperatures can cause harmful impacts to individuals that can be life threatening. Individuals exposed to cold temperatures for a prolonged period of time can risk developing hypothermia and/or frostbite. These are very serious illnesses which must be medically treated immediately. Certain populations such as those with poor circulatory systems, older adults, individuals with disabilities, and those with other illnesses may be more vulnerable to cold-related illnesses.

The National Weather Service may issue extreme cold notifications, such as wind chill watches and warnings. When extreme cold conditions exist, the Office of Emergency Management may open Warming Centers throughout the County.

Definitions:

Frostbite – An injury that is caused by the freezing of skin and underlying tissues. Skin may become very cold and red, then numb and pale

Hypothermia – A state in which the body’s core temperature drops below 95 degrees; severe hypothermia can occur when the body’s core temperature drops below 82 degrees. Hypothermia can be accompanied by stiffness, excessive shivering, confusion, slurred speech, numbness, or weak pulse

Wind Chill – Wind chill is a measure of what the outside temperature actually feels like to humans and animals. Wind chill is calculated off both the actual temperature and wind speed by the National Weather Service

 
Chill Chart

 

When extremely cold temperatures occur, the Office of Emergency Management and the Department of Health encourage citizens in Anne Arundel County to do the following:

  • Layer your clothing to have more flexibility and control over how warm you stay. Avoid cotton clothing for winter activities
  • Prepare for the unexpected. Most hypothermia cases occur due to an unexpected change in the weather or temperature
  • Wear a warm hat; up to 50 percent of body heat is lost through the head
  • Avoid getting wet when the temperature dips
  • Wear waterproof boots or shoes to keep your feet dry
  • Drink plenty of water. Avoid nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol

Citizens should also be aware of the risks cold weather poses when inside homes and buildings. The Office of Emergency Management offers the following tips to help citizens remain safe in their homes during cold conditions:

  • Store several days worth of non-perishable food and bottled water
  • Keep several days worth of medications
  • Keep fireplaces and wood-burning stoves clean
  • Never leave space heaters on or unattended
  • Ensure smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are operating properly
  • Check on older adults and neighbors and relatives with disabilities
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