Cold, wind chills, snow force school closings


Today’s very legitimate, single-digit low temperature — it was 0 degrees with a feels-like wind chill of minus 18 degrees at mid-morning — intruded with enough snow to close schools.

Today is the coldest day in the county since the mercury hit minus 9 degrees on Feb. 20, 2015. The coldest Jan. 30 on record in Jasper was the minus 10 degrees from 1966.

But this arctic air is arriving with brisk winds that bring dangerously cold feels-like wind chills.

The National Weather Service says winds could gust up to 25 mph today, bringing wind chill values as low as minus 23 degrees. That could cause frostbite on exposed skin in less than 30 minutes.

The forecast was enough for the Southwest Dubois County School Corporation and the Otwell Miller Academy to go ahead Tuesday afternoon and schedule today as an e-learning day.

School officials have wind chill charts from the National Weather Service or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that they use to determine how it will feel outside and how long kids can be outside.

Southeast Dubois County School Corporation Superintendent Rick Allen said his worst fear when it is bitter cold is that something could happen that results in a student missing a bus and getting locked out of a house. Thankfully, that has never occurred on his watch.

The snow on top of the frigid cold tipped the scales toward canceling classes.

The City of Jasper estimated its snow depth at 1.5 inches and it was enough to lead to several morning slide-offs through the county and a warning from the Dubois County Sheriff’s Department that roads were slick and hazardous.

Jasper Street Superintendent Jeff Theising said city trucks were out hitting hills this morning and hoping that traffic over Jasper’s streets would allow the spread materials to have a positive effect.

Dubois County Highway Superintendent Steve Berg said county plow drivers were out “chipping over the top,” and he wasn’t talking about golf. Specifically, Berg’s crews were spreading rock chips mixed with sand.

Today’s high is forecast to be 6 or 7 degrees, followed by a low of 2 or 3 degrees. Thursday’s high could reach 25 degrees, according to the National Weather Service, with the area’s first foray above freezing to come Friday, when the high is forecast at 42 degrees.

Until that mini warmup, the American Red Cross is reporting there is a considerably higher risk for disaster in the next 72 hours than we typically face.

In parts of Indiana, local governments are preparing warming centers, to provide a temporary place for those who are housing insecure to get out of the harsh conditions. The Red Cross is supporting those efforts by loaning resources and supplies, and has already loaned over 200 cots to government partners, according to Duchess Adjei, regional communication director at the American Red Cross, Indiana Region.

The Red Cross also reports pre-positioning shelter trailers and supplies at key locations throughout Indiana, such as near interstates, to be ready for weather-related emergencies.

The Red Cross’ tips for getting through the current arctic air mass intrusion include:

Keeping children, pets and things that can burn at least three feet away from space heaters and plug power cords directly into outlets — never into an extension cord.

Turn off portable space heaters every time you leave the room or go to sleep.

Wear layers of clothing, a hat, mittens and waterproof, insulated boots.

Check on your neighbors, especially elderly people living alone, people with disabilities and children.

Watch for hypothermia and frostbite. Hypothermia symptoms include confusion, dizziness, exhaustion and severe shivering. Frostbite symptoms include numbness, flushed gray, white, blue or yellow skin discoloration, numbness or waxy feeling skin.

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