Wind chill, hypothermia, and frostbite- what are they?

Beyond The Forecast

(WFRV) – A windy start to Wednesday makes today’s Winter Weather Awareness week topic very fitting.

Wind chill is defined as the rate of heat loss from the human body caused by low temperature and wind. When winds increase, heat is carried away from the body at a faster rate, which can lead to frostbite or hypothermia.

Hypothermia occurs when the human body temperature drops below 95 degrees Fahrenheit. There are many warning signs including confusion, shivering, sleepiness, and difficult speaking.

This graphic below shows how quickly frostbite can occur based on wind speed and temperature. Frostbite can occur in 30 minutes when the temperatures is 0 degrees and wind is 15 mph! It can also occur in just 10 minutes if the air temperature is -10 degrees with a 25 mph wind.

Courtesy: NWS

Frostbite is a severe reaction to the cold that can permanently damage a victim. According to Lt. Shauna Walesh with the Green Bay Metro Fire Department, “Do not rub or massage areas with frostbite because that will damage to that extremity.”

Placing a frostbite victim next to a fire, heat lamp, or radiator may also cause damage due to the extreme swing in temperatures.

The National Weather Service (NWS) says, “A frostbitten victim should also not be given a drink with caffeine in it, such as coffee or alcohol.” This is because the stimulant could cause the heart to beat faster and increase the effects cold has on the body.

The proper way to treat frostbite is to warm the person slowly, which could include wrapping the person in a blanket or placing them in dry clothing.

The coldest average temperatures of the year in Northeast Wisconsin typically occurs in January. When freezing temperatures strike, stay with Storm Team 5 on-air, online, and on our app:


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