It's not just going to be cold throughout the New Year's weekend, it's going to be extremely, even dangerously frigid.
A hazardous weather advisory released Friday by the National Weather Service in Wichita indicated that dangerous wind chills are expected from this morning through Tuesday morning as an arctic front moves south across the state.
The most dangerous wind chills are expected Sunday and Monday, with readings of 20 to 25 degrees below zero across western and central Kansas, mainly north of Highway 50. In Hays, temperatures are expected to range from a high of 12 degrees to a low of minus 6, but wind chills could make it feel as low as 18 degrees below zero. Some snow flurries might fall overnight Saturday.
Such conditions can cause hypothermia and frostbite in a short period of time for those braving the outdoors, and a jump in gas and electrical costs for those inside.
Symptoms? Go inside
Hypothermia occurs when the body's normal temperature of 98.6 drops below 95 degrees. Symptoms can include shivering, clumsiness, confusion, tiredness, trouble speaking clearly and/or breathing and urinating more than usual. Frostbite symptoms can include cold, numb skin that might look white or gray and feel hard and waxy, blisters with fluid or blood inside or areas of black skin.
Dr. Jeremiah Ostmeyer, emergency room physician at Salina Regional Health Center, said he has seen several weather-related hypothermia and frostbite cases during the last week because of the first wave of frigid weather that hit during Christmas. He expects to see more, especially with this being New Year's weekend.
"When you've had alcohol, you don't react to the elements as well as you should," he said. "The risk is out there, and people need to be warned. The longer you're out in the cold, the less time it takes these things to develop."
If someone shows signs of hypothermia or frostbite, Ostmeyer said, it's important to get them inside and warmed up as quickly as possible and keep them inside.
"People get into the most trouble when they partially rewarm, then get out in the cold again," he said. "Get them inside, get them dry and warm and get them to us in the emergency room if it's needed."
People traveling or working outside this weekend should take stock of their home and car emergency kits.
According to the Kansas Department of Emergency Management, emergency kits should include a minimum three-day supply of water; nonperishable, high-energy foods; blankets; flashlights and extra batteries; a safe alternate heat source, and extra medications. Car emergency kits should include an ice scraper and shovel; jumper cables; flashlights; sand or kitty litter for traction; extra blankets or clothing; non-perishable food; a first-aid kit; matches and candle or flares, and a tow rope or chain.
If you have to be outside or work outdoors, the KDEM advises, dress in many thin, warm layers of clothing for better insulation; do not work alone, if possible; and work in short periods to avoid over-exertion. Also bring outdoor pets inside and ensure they have a draft-free enclosure, as well as access to food and non-frozen water.
For a list of other helpful preparedness information, go online to www.ksready.gov.
When it comes to reducing energy costs in one's home during frigid temperatures, Gina Penzig, media relations manager at Westar Energy, recommended lowering the thermostat to an energy-efficient temperature of 68 degrees.
"That's a good place to start, and if it's not meeting your immediate comfort needs, adjust it up or down a degree to see how that feels instead of making a drastic change," she said. "It's a matter of finding a balance of saving energy and still being comfortable at home. Also, wearing appropriate clothing inside like jeans and a long-sleeved shirt can help you adjust to the thermostat."
Using space heaters isn't always a good idea unless one is heating just a small area, Penzig said, and one should never use an oven for anything but baking.
"Winter is a good time for baking because of the additional heat you get from cooking," she said. "But on the other side of that, using an oven as a space heater is not efficient or safe."