The big chill
Outdoor experts warn of frostbite danger during wind chill warning
LAKE PLACID — The National Weather Service on Wednesday, Feb. 1 issued a wind chill warning for northern New York and Vermont from 1 a.m. Friday through 1 p.m. Saturday. It includes Essex, Clinton, Franklin, Hamilton, St. Lawrence and Warren counties.
Meanwhile, some outdoor recreation experts in the Tri-Lakes region are warning people about the increased possibility of frostbite during this time. The NWS says that dangerously cold wind chills are possible, dipping as low as 30 to 45 below zero.
“When it’s cold, that’s a good time to consider a ski center,” Scott van Laer said Wednesday. He’s a former New York State Forest Ranger who covered the High Peaks region, including hiker search-and-rescue missions, and is now the director of the Paul Smith’s College Visitor Interpretive Center on state Route 30. The VIC features snowshoe and cross-country ski trails radiating from the Frank M. Hutchins Lodge.
One advantage of skiing at a recreation center such as the VIC, as opposed to going on the wilderness or wild forest backcountry trails of the Adirondack Park, is the proximity of a building where skiers and snowshoers can get warm during their outing, according to van Laer.
“When you’re going out into the High Peaks, that’s where you’re taking on a lot greater risk,” van Laer said. “You’re also putting other people at risk because if something does happen to you, it’s a big operation. It’s difficult for rescuers, and a lot of times it requires more rescuers.”
Skiers and snowshoers should be extra prepared for extremely cold weather, van Laer said, and that means not having exposed skin, which can lead to frostbite.
“It’s really important to have those extra layers,” van Laer said. “Make sure you have that big, puffy (jacket) to keep you warm if you have to stop, but you don’t want to overdo it with layers at the start to the point where you are sweating immediately. You want to try to avoid sweating for as long as you can.”
Frostbite on exposed skin can set in as quickly as 10 minutes, depending on the wind chill, according to Ben Brosseau, communications director for the Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK).
“It’s a good weekend to be home,” Brosseau said Wednesday. “If you’re going outside, the advice that the National Weather Service is putting out is really good. Cover up as much as possible, multiple layers, including some wind blockers to help take the cut out of the wind. But really minimizing the amount of exposed skin that you have.”
ADK operates the Adirondak Loj property at Heart Lake outside Lake Placid and the Cascade Welcome Center on state Route 73. The Adirondak Loj is a popular trailhead for backcountry hikers and campers going into the High Peaks Wilderness to climb mountains such as Mount Marcy and Algonquin Peak, the tallest and second-tallest peaks in the Adirondack Park, respectively. The Cascade Welcome Center features groomed cross-country ski trails.
Backcountry skiers and snowshoers should be aware that the wind chills increase the higher in elevation they climb, according to Brosseau.
“Yesterday, the National Weather Service was predicting a negative 65-degree wind chill on the summit of Mount Marcy Saturday morning,” Brosseau said. “Broadly speaking, we’re looking at high wind gusts 30 to 40 miles an hour at base elevation, with wind chills at the trailhead in Lake Placid as low as negative 47 degrees.”
Brosseau’s advice is to stay indoors during the wind chill warning and head outside when it gets warmer, possibly on Sunday.
“It would not be a weekend to go on an alpine summit or an exposed mountaintop, that’s for sure, period,” Brosseau said. “If you’re looking for a more woodsy, Marcy Dam-type hike, maybe, on Sunday. When the wind chill is this cold, you don’t have a lot of time to take care of yourself when you get to an emergency situation.”
Below is the weather forecast issued Friday morning by the NWS office in Burlington for western Essex County, including the village of Lake Placid. As of 9 a.m., it was 15 below in Lake Placid with a wind chill factor of 26 below.
Friday: Mostly sunny and cold, with a high near -11. Wind chill values as low as -43. West wind 15 to 18 mph, with gusts as high as 32 mph.
Friday night: Partly cloudy, with a low around -26. Wind chill values as low as -54. West wind 15 to 17 mph, with gusts as high as 33 mph.
Saturday: Mostly sunny and cold, with a high near 4. Wind chill values as low as -50. West wind 6 to 10 mph.
Saturday night: Mostly cloudy, with a low around 1. Wind chill values as low as -12. Southwest wind 6 to 10 mph.
Sunday: Mostly cloudy, with a high near 32. Southwest wind 10 to 13 mph.
Sunday night: A 40 percent chance of snow showers. Cloudy, with a low around 23. Southwest wind 8 to 10 mph.
The National Weather Service offers the following advice for extreme cold weather. More tips can be found online at http://weather.gov/safety/cold.
Prepare for cold weather
The way to avoid frostbite and hypothermia is to plan for extreme cold before it arrives. Don’t get caught unprepared.
– Check the forecast at weather.gov or your favorite weather app, station, etc.: Make checking the forecast part of your regular routine so you’ll know when to expect cold weather.
– Adjust your schedule: If possible, adjust your schedule to avoid being outside during the coldest part of the day, typically the early morning. Try to find a warm spot for your children while waiting for the school bus outside.
– Protect your pets, livestock and other property: If you have pets or farm animals, make sure they have plenty of food and water, and are not overly exposed to extreme cold. Take precautions to ensure your water pipes do not freeze.
– Fill up the tank: Make sure your car or vehicle has at least a half a tank of gas during extreme cold situations so that you can stay warm if you become stranded.
– Dress for the outdoors even if you don’t think you’ll be out much.
– Update your winter car survival kit: Make sure your car survival kit has the following:
– Jumper cables: flares or reflective triangle are great extras
– Flashlights: Replace the batteries before the winter season starts and pack some extras
– First-aid kit: Also check your purse of bag for essential medications
– Baby, special needs gear: If you have a baby or family member with special needs, pack diapers and any special formula or food
– Food: Stock non-perishable food such as canned food and a can opener, dry cereal and protein rich foods like nuts and energy bars
– Water: Have at least 1 gallon of water per person a day for at least 3 days
– Basic toolkit: Pliers, wrench, screwdriver
– Pet supplies: Food and water
– Radio: Battery or hand cranked
– Cat litter or sand: For better tire traction
– Shovel: To dig out snow
– Ice scraper: Even if you usually park in a garage, have one in the car.
– Clothes: Make sure you dress for the weather in warm clothes, gloves, hat, sturdy boots, jacket and an extra change of clothes for the cold
– Warmers: Pack extra for body, hands, feet
– Blankets or sleeping bags: If you get stranded in traffic on a lonely road, you’ll be glad to have it.
– Charged cellphone: Keep a spare charger in your car as well
Watch for frostbite
Frostbite can happen in minutes, especially on the extremities such as fingers, toes, nose and ears, but can affect any area of exposed skin. If you suspect frostbite, immediately move inside to a heated location and begin warming the affected areas using warm water or body heat. Do not use hot water or radiant heat such as a fireplace since affected areas can be easily burned. Seek medical attention for severe frostbite.
Below are indicators of frostbite:
– First degree: Ice crystals are forming on your skin.
– Second degree: Skin begins to feel warm even though it is not yet defrosted.
– Third degree: Skin turns red, pale or white.
– Fourth degree: Pain lasts for more than a few hours and skin may develop dark blue or black. See a doctor immediately if these symptoms arise. Gangrene is a real threat.
Frostbite first aid
Get indoors as quickly as possible. Until you can get indoors:
– Don’t rub or massage cold body parts.
– Put your hands in your armpits.
– Hold onto another person or animal.
– Drink warm liquids.
¯- Put on extra layers of clothes, blankets, etc.
– Remove rings, watches and anything other tight jewelry or related items.
– Don’t walk on a frostbitten foot. You could cause more damage.
– Get in a warm, NOT hot, bath and wrap your face and ears in a moist, warm, NOT hot, towel.
– Don’t get near a hot stove or heater or use a heating pad, hot water bottle, or a hair dryer. You may burn yourself before feeling returns.
– Frostbitten skin will become red and swollen and feel like it’s on fire. You may develop blisters. Don’t break the blisters. It could cause scarring and infection.
– If your skin turns blue or gray, is very swollen, blistered or feels hard and numb even under the surface, go to a hospital as soon as possible.