By Adam Strunk
The next week won’t be a record cold snap, but it will certainly be historic, with temperatures remaining below freezing for more than a week.
The latest National Weather Service projections do not expect highs to get above freezing until Feb. 18.
“It’s pretty remarkable,” National Weather Service Meteorologist Roger Martin said. “As it stands right now, we’re forecasting at least 11 straight days below freezing, and that could be longer. The last time we had that was in 1983. We’re pushing almost 40 years.”
The NWS forecasts highs in the teens most of next week. Weather gets worse on the weekend, with highs dropping into the single digits and lows dropping as far as -7 below zero.
“Friday and Saturday we might get a stripe of snow that comes through and makes it even colder,” Martin said.
Wind chills during Saturday night are projected to be as low as -30 below zero.
He noted, at those temperatures, people need to do what they can to stay safe outside and avoid frostbite. That means covering exposed skin and limiting time outdoors.
“Have on as many layers as possible,” he said. “Every six hours, we go out and check snowfall. Just being out for 10 minutes, the end of my fingers were starting to hurt.”
The cold weather effects those working outside, as well as plumbing and pets.
Newton Animal Control Officer Lindsey Robinette said she’s been receiving more reports of animals out in the cold in the last few days than during the rest of the winter.
“Usually it’s just a dog being out in the cold weather,” she said. “I just talk to the owner and let them know what they need for the ordinance.”
City ordinance requires dogs and cats have a structure to go into to get out of the wind and cold, access to thawed water and bedding. Robinette said straw is preferable because it can be changed out when it is dirty or wet. She says blankets can get wet and freeze.
Robinette noted that some dogs like huskies, German shepherds and malamutes enjoy colder temperatures. Still, cold weather can be dangerous for pets.
She said in an ideal world, when temperatures get dangerously cold, people would keep their animals inside.
“If they can’t keep them inside, try to get as much snow out of where they are staying,” she said. “If the snow gets packed in their feet, that can cause issues.”
She also recommended turning the entrances to dog houses away from the wind to keep pets warmer.
Another common concern in cold weather are water pipes freezing.
Broken pipes can result not only in costly replacement but water damage, as well.
Andy Hamm at Bob Stith Cooling, Heating and Plumbing said that right now the service was taking a few calls about pipe problems but more about heaters not keeping up. She said, in Wichita, the service provider had been fielding calls about broken pipes.
“This week’s not going to be fun for anyone,” she said.
She said, with the cold, if people are concerned about pipes freezing, they could make sure their crawlspaces are insulated if they don’t have basements.
“If you can, put straw around your foundation to keep it warmer,” she said.
Even with basements, line breaks are possible if it gets too cold.
“It depends on how cold and drafty it is,” she said.
Other common actions people can take to prevent pipes from freezing up include leaving faucets dripping, opening up cabinet doors around plumbing and detaching exterior hoses where water can sit.
Sealing drafty windows and other places air can come into your house also can help prevent pipes from freezing and also save money on the heating bill.
As for what’s causing the longest trip below freezing in 38 years, Martin explained that arctic air separating from the mass at the North Pole and drifting downward is causing the phenomena
“In winter time, we always get cold air, but you’ll get these cold, large, expansive arctic air masses that will dislodge,” he said. “Think of it as a big block of ice floating in a pond. One of those blocks of ice, so to speak, dislodged and is sinking south.”