A cold snap moving into the area Sunday through Tuesday could bring subzero temperatures for more than 36 hours to the Creston area, not including the wind chill.
Daily highs climb into the mid-20s today and Saturday before taking the plunge to below zero the remainder of the weekend.
“Saturday night is when the change is expected to start taking place,” said State Climatologist Harry Hillaker. “It’s been a pretty cold winter so far, but it is expected that the Sunday through Tuesday period could be the coldest period yet.”
Hillaker said the temperature may drop to -13 late Sunday and only reach -4 for a high on Monday. The wind chill could reach -50 depending on several contributing factors like wind speed, temperature and sunshine.
If exposed to the severe cold, there are several safety tips to keep in mind for home, pet and personal care.
One of the biggest concerns when temperatures drop during the winter is protecting pipes from freezing.
When severe cold hits, run water to help keep the water inside the pipes from freezing. Also, open cabinet doors to allow warm air to reach the plumbing fixtures.
It helps to leave the thermostat at a constant temperature day and night during severe cold snaps.
If you plan to use a space heater, make sure it is on a level surface and all flammable material is at least three feet away.
“Make sure the power source is adequate, we have had fires because the outlets were not rated high enough (for space heaters),” said Creston Fire Chief Todd Jackson. “We do not recommend extention cords with space heaters.”
Use similar safety techniques when using a fireplace. Make sure all embers are put out before leaving and use proper screens to catch sparks or rolling logs.
“We don’t encourage any type of propane space heaters inside,” Jackson said. “We ask that you check smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.”
When fires do occur in cold weather, local fire fighters have to combat the elements as well as the emergency situation.
“We have to maintain our trucks differently, such as no water in the discharge valves and we have to circulate water in our pumps so it doesn’t freeze up,” Jackson said.
Dressing in lightweight layers and remembering gloves and a hat is one of the best ways to fight the cold while out in the elements.
Try to minimize bare skin exposure, especially in windy conditions.
“You need to cover the tender skin areas such as fingers, toes and nose,” said Director of Union County Emergency Management Jo Anne Duckworth. “Children and elderly are more susceptible to the cold. It’s best to go in and get warmed up often.”
If individuals need shelter from the cold, Duckworth said to call emergency management and request housing.
Make sure pets have a safe place to seek shelter from the cold.
“If it is too cold for you to be outside, it is too cold for your pets,” Duckworth said. “Livestock will need access to fresh water and extra feed. It takes a lot of feed this time of year to stay warm.”
When traveling, give car engines extra time to warm up and make sure all windows are clear of frost or snow. Do not leave a car running in an enclosed area like a garage.
Osceola recorded the coldest temperature of 2013 as thermometers reached -27 at sunrise on Christmas Eve.
Mount Ayr and Winterset tied for third with a low of -24.
Hillaker said the Christmas Eve temperature will probably be colder than Sunday through Tuesday, but there was minimal wind. The weekend forecast predicts winds holding steady around 20 mph.
Within the past 10 years, the National Weather Service updated the formula for calculating wind chill.
“It is a very complicated formula and still arbitrary in a way, depending on how well people dress and how well they are acclimated to the cold,” Hillaker said.
Hillaker said the new formula does not weight wind speed as heavily and factors in direct sunlight because of more recent research.
“What would have been -75 wind chill might be getting down to -50, so it’s not as drastic sounding,” Hillaker said. “The weather service issues windchill warnings when it is -30 or lower. This coming weather is expected to be in the warning category.”
But the extended forecast does predict warmer temperatures if current weather patterns hold true.
“The weather service puts out an eight to 14 day outlook and it favors above average temperatures,” Hillaker said. “There is some hope on the horizon as the cold shifts westward.”