It was a little nippy this morning in Roanoke, but let's not lose our heads over this. In spite of the wind, it did not get below zero. All the weather stations were screaming about wind chill and the dangers of frostbite.
I don't want to keep people from wrapping themselves up properly and especially from bringing their pets in on a cold night, but I think you might have to work a little in Roanoke to get frostbite.
I actually have a little experience in the matter of working outside in cold temperatures. Our farm Tay Ridge Angus was twenty miles north of Fredericton, New Brunswick in a small settlement called Tay Creek. The area was in the middle of a notorious cold belt which often got whacked with serious snow storms. When traveling, we could estimate the temperature back on the farm by listening for the temperature of the appropriately named, Caribou, Maine.
Both places got the benefit of cold air that was often super cooled by a trip down from the Arctic and across the frozen Canadian heartland. The difference between Canadian cold and Roanoke, Virginia cold is that the sun actually has an impact on the temperatures in Roanoke. You can go out in the morning completely bundled up for eight degrees Fahrenheit and by the afternoon the temperature could be thirty three degrees Fahrenheit as it is today, and you would have to shed some clothing.
But Canadian, Vermont, or Maine cold is different as I have often said. Often in the heart of winter the temperature drops from day to day. The high today might be eight with a low of four. Tomorrow the high is four with a low of minus ten. The next day the high is minus ten and the low minus twenty. It doesn't happen often but when it does, there is serious danger of frostbite if there is wind.
Most of the really cold temperatures that I saw in my seventeen years in Canada were accompanied by almost surprising calm. I'm sure Kevin Myatt has probably explained that in his weather blog in the Roanoke Times, but my guess is that radiational cooling has it best opportunity to work when the winds are calm.
Unfortunately this calm isn't always the case. The coldest weather I ever saw was January 17, 1982. It is an easy date to remember since our youngest daughter was born then. We had just been hit with an extended period of that Canadian cold where the temperature drops each day for a couple of weeks. The temperature finally hit minus forty degrees Fahrenheit the morning that a horrendous blizzard struck. We got two to three feet of snow, but we also got thirty to forty miles per hour winds. For a while the very cold temperatures, the wind, and the snow all happened at the same time. In case you're interested in what kind of wind chill that equates, this NOAA calculator works well. Entering the estimates for when I went on my tractor ride that morning shows something like minus eighty degrees Fahrenheit on the calculator. Even there it takes five minutes or so for exposed flesh to get frostbite. Trust, me that morning it was pretty hard to find exposed anything on my body. I'm just glad nothing broke down, that day. There are plenty of unsubstantiated rumors that I have been known to work on equipment without gloves at twenty below zero as long as there was no wind, but minus forty and wind is a different ball of frozen wax.
Though I can't remember exactly that morning of January 17, 1982 since at minus forty you have a lot to worry about on a farm especially when your wife decides it is time to go to the hospital, my guess is that the snow brought some welcome warming to us. Of course the warming was probably to minus ten or something like that. I do know that I barely made it home from the hospital in a huge 4X4 pickup.
The next day the last portion of the road I traveled to get home had to be cleaned with a giant snow blower since they couldn't keep it from filling in with snow driven by the high winds. Trust me when a New Brunswick snow plow can't clear a road, there is some serious snow.
School eventually was canceled for a few days because the authorities were concerned that the kids might touch the power lines while playing on the snow banks.
I recently wrote a post on my Coastal NC blog about winter and some cold temperatures arriving. The interesting thing is that a couple of weeks earlier I had written an article, "Is Winter Finally Here?," which was published in the February Dropping Anchor Magazine where I predicted some cold weather at the end of January. I had used the NOAA and Accuweather forecasts to come up with the guess which turned out pretty accurate. We even had a little snow close to the coast not far from us the day the last snow storm missed Roanoke and hit Greensboro, Raleigh, and Charlotte.
I hear we have one to three inches of snow coming tonight. I don't
think I will worry too much. Weather makes great tales, and some of them are even true.
Fortunately unless you're forced to stay outside for very long periods of time, it doesn't get as dangerous here as it does in the north country. Still on a night like last night you could have ended up in serious trouble.
I for one don't miss Canadian cold. In fact I wouldn't mind missing some of this Roanoke cold by heading back to the coast which seems to be a lot warmer than here in the mountains. My site for coastal real estate shows at the bottom right that the Cape Carteret temperature is at 40 degrees Fahrenheit which is eight degrees warmer than it is in Roanoke.
Cape Carteret's low this morning was twenty one degrees Fahrenheit which is plenty cold for the coast, but it was a little warmer than the eight degrees I saw this morning.