With dangerously cold wind chills, you could get frostbite in as little as 10 minutes on exposed skin. Take preventive measures when the temperatures are this cold in central New York.

The NWS Wind Chill Temperature (WCT) chart calculates the dangers of winter winds and freezing temperatures. The Utica/Rome National Weather Service forecast calls for a  -20 wind chill today, with temps falling below zero tonight.

National Weather Service
National Weather Service

What Is Frostbite?

Frostbite happens when the body's survival mechanisms kick in during frigid weather. To protect your vital inner organs, your body cuts circulation to your extremities: feet, hands, nose, etc., which eventually freeze. If you must go out, try to cover every part of your body: ears, nose, toes, fingers, etc.

  • Mittens are better than gloves.
  • Keep your skin dry.
  • Stay out of the wind when possible.
  • Drink plenty of fluids since hydration increases the blood's volume, which helps prevent frostbite.
  • Avoid caffeine,  alcohol, and cigarette. Caffeine constricts blood vessels, preventing warming of your extremities. Alcohol reduces shivering, which helps keep you warm. Cigarettes shut off the blood flow to your hands.

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, but until you do:

  • 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.

Once indoors:

    • 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 hairdryer. 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.

Hypothermia is another threat during extreme cold. Hypothermia occurs when the body loses heat faster than it can produce.


To avoid frostbite and  Hypothermia, stay inside during severe cold. If you must go out, cover every part of your body.

[Information from Weather.gov]

Winter Weather Preparation:

      • Keep your cell phone charged, and make sure you know where your backup power supply is.
      • Make sure all your flashlights have fresh batteries.
      • Fill your gas tank. You can use your car to keep warm and recharge devices.
      • Have some food available that you don’t need to cook.
      • Download the App. You’ll receive local alerts, weather reports, and more with push notifications.
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