There is a winter storm warning in effect in the Dayton region going through 5 p.m. today, and there is a wind chill warning through 4 a.m. Saturday, according to the National Weather Service in Wilmington. Temperatures are expected to drop sharply overnight, rapidly falling well below freezing, leading to the potential for a flash freeze.
Cold weather risks to health
With temperatures dropping from 40 degrees earlier in the week to soon single-digit temperatures and negative wind chills over the weekend, Coniglio said the drop will be a shock to individuals.
“These types of dangerous weather conditions can knock out power for extended periods of time, make travel extremely difficult, and quickly result in serious health problems for those who are exposed or unable to stay warm,” said Jennifer Wentzel, Montgomery County health commissioner. “Because of this, it is important to be prepared and routinely check on neighbors and family members who may be living alone.”
Dr. Elizabeth Barrett, who practices family medicine at Premier Health Primary Care – Beavercreek, said infants and the elderly are more susceptible to health risks associated with cold temperatures, such as hypothermia, which is an abnormally low body temperature.
“Infants can’t really regulate temperatures,” Barrett said. Barrett recommended keeping room temperatures set to at least 68 degrees and wearing warm layers.
Signs of hypothermia in adults include shivering, exhaustion or feeling very tired, confusion, fumbling hands, memory loss, slurred speech, or drowsiness. For babies, signs include bright red and cold skin, as well as very low energy. Barrett recommended seeking medical attention or calling a doctor if signs of hypothermia start to appear.
Hazardous travel conditions
With strong winds blowing snow, this will also reduce visibility during one of the biggest travel seasons of the year. The Dayton Daily News reported earlier this week that AAA estimates 112.7 million people will journey 50 miles or more away from home for the holiday season, which will be Dec. 23 to Jan. 2. That’s an increase of 3.6 million people over last year and is inching closer to pre-pandemic levels of travel.
Any snow that falls early today could freeze into a sheet of ice on the roads, Coniglio said. Drivers should plan on slippery road conditions, and patchy blowing snow could significantly reduce visibility. Gusty winds could bring down tree branches.
“It’s actually the coldest air mass we’ve had in the area since 2019 anytime of the year,” Coniglio said. As far as a daily temperatures go, if the weather hits below 10 degrees, this could be a record low for the Christmas season in the region.
“It’s going to be close to record cold during the day on Friday,” Coniglio said. “It’s going to be very, very cold, very windy.”
Travel conditions today will be very hazardous, Coniglio said. For those who have to go out, he recommended bringing a cold weather kit in case of getting stranded. That kit could include jumper cables, flashlights, a snow scraper, warm clothes, a blanket, and potentially a bag of sand, salt, or litter to help create traction on the road for if the vehicle gets stuck.
The Ohio Department of Transportation is also asking the public the manage their expectations today and this weekend when it comes to travel.
“Stay home if you can. However, we realize it’s the busy holiday travel season,” said Tiffany Oliphant, ODOT public information officer. “Roads will be snow covered and hazardous at times, even with our crews out in full force, so plan ahead for travel to take much longer. You will not be able to drive the speed limit during the storm. You will need to slow down. Please be patient with our crews and give us room to work.”
For those who must be out, ODOT recommended checking the weather forecast and current road conditions on OHGO.com.
Only spend short periods outside
For those who may be spending time outside, Barrett recommended sticking to short increments in the cold instead of spending long periods of time outside. When exposed to cold temperatures, the body begins to lose heat faster than it’s produced, according to the CDC. Lengthy exposures will eventually use up the body’s stored energy, which leads to lower body temperature.
With strong wind chills, Barrett said body heat just gets blown away. The dangerously cold wind chills could cause frostbite on exposed skin in as little as 10 minutes, according to the National Weather Service.
For those who have other health conditions, such as heart disease, asthma, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, the body is working double time.
“Take it in shifts,” Barrett said about being out in the cold. “Give your body some extra time.”
In the city of Dayton, St. Vincent de Paul shelters at 120 W. Apple St. for women and families, along with 1921 S. Gettysburg Ave. for men, will be open as warming centers 24 hours per day throughout the weekend.
Check on your neighbors
Before, during and after severe winter conditions, Public Health – Dayton & Montgomery County recommends checking in on older loved ones, friends, and neighbors to make sure they are okay and have the resources they need to remain safe and healthy.
Be aware that confusion, disorientation and irritability can be symptoms of conditions such as dehydration, stress and fatigue. If someone appears ill or is injured, call 9-1-1 immediately.
Older adults may have a few additional considerations:
Your preparation should also include a plan for safely keeping the temperature in your home comfortable. Use only space heaters that have been tested and certified to the latest safety standards, and do not leave a space heater unattended. Never use a kitchen stove or any other appliance not designed to heat your home for that purpose.
Create an emergency car kit
When preparing for a winter storm, the Centers for Disease Control says it is best to avoid traveling. If travel is necessary, consider keeping the following in your car: