Egregiously Low Wind Chills are Egregious

So, there I was, walking around the street corner, minding my own business, when SumWind* slapped my face and took the air out of my lungs!

OK, yes, it is January, and cold fronts are one of those things that tend to happen on a regular, or at least frequent, basis. They happen most often when someone in Canada leaves a gate open, or fails to fix the wire on the barbed-wire fence and Arctic air comes racing down the eastern slope of the Rockies. The day had been cool but not too bad for January, with a slight wind chill but nothing really impressive. However, when I left St. Angus in the Grass School, I could see grey and blue massing on the northern horizon. The southern sky remained clear. A light southerly breeze stirred the air, as chilly as you’d expect when the air temperature is 45 F. Those grey clouds, though . . .

High clouds had oozed in by sunset. The wind settled, taking a rest. Without much moisture in the air, the temperature began easing downward, so I opted to take a quick walk. Maybe it would help open my sinuses, or at least stir the blood a little. I headed south, well bundled in heavy jacket, fleece hat, good gloves, and corduroy pants. Trot, trot, I stretched my legs as much as by impaired breathing would permit. The sunset turned grey, no color to speak of despite the ice-clouds in the air. The sun just set, and I could see an evening star shining through the veil overhead. A bit of south wind stung my cheeks, but nothing really bad.

About the time I changed course, starting my return leg toward RedQuarters, the wind switched, and switched hard. Ice slapped my face, driving the air out of my lungs, or so it felt. The wind cut, slicing through corduroy and leather. Breathing made my mouth ache a little, and stung my nose. (The temperature was starting to drop rapidly. It fell 5 degrees F in the 20 minutes between when I left and when I returned.) Dang! I picked up the pace as best I could. Breathing took work, in part because of my head cold, in part from the hard wind and cold.

It’s been a while since I’ve felt that sensation. The last time was when I walked out into -30F wind chills from a 35 F “heated” garage. Ow. Even if you are expecting it, the shock gets your attention. When you’re not expecting it? Big surprise. Yes, by northern standards it’s a mild inconveninece, and yes we get worse down here. But the surprise got me.

*The atmospheric version of Sumdood, the nefarious villain who lurks around street corners, lying in wait for people who are otherwise minding their own business, doing nothing at all.


23 thoughts on “Egregiously Low Wind Chills are Egregious

  1. I don’t know which is worse, a surprise like that, or when you KNOW the Arctic has come to visit, and you have to go outside anyway.

  2. The second definitely. 9 below here this morning and eight Newfoundlands to take care of. They think this winter has been delightful.

    • I thought I beagle’s main job was to Sniff All The Things, followed by that howling bark that signifies the brain has turned all control over to The Nose, and the legs are in gear and going ThatAway at full speed, no matter what the owner might be saying..

    • That’s a dog being merely indifferent to the weather.
      I have some cross things to say about St. Bernards this time of year. But they’re so darned happy.

  3. Our Border Collie pup doesn’t mind temps in the high single digits. Me, I’m wearing heavy sweatpants under overalls, with a sweatshirt and vest and the not-really-a-winter coat on the outside.

    We haven’t had snow since New Years, so necessary protection for my feet is minimal. Our previous BC would do a three-legged dance when it got below zero. Personal record for the area was -28F. Potty breaks in that weather were short, though things would stick to the poop-scooper on contact. Eww!

    • My parents’ Pug refused to go out in cold or rainy weather. If forced, she would have the most pitiful expression. Pugs are expert at looking sad. My dad finally put a box of sawdust in the basement for her personal use.

  4. Oh yes, that WILL get your attention and make you wonder WHY did I go so far! At least it wasn’t dropping a degree a minute!

    • No, that was in 5th grade, when I didn’t wear a jacket to school. Guess what time the Blue Norther arrived? 3:35 CDT, just as the bell rang. I don’t think any walk home was ever that long.

  5. It’s been below freezing here in southwest Ohio most of the last few days, but the wind chills haven’t been too horrible, thank God. Even with the cold temps and the snow I’ve managed to get in a lot of walking. Maybe a bit too much. They say exercise is good for you, but my shins beg to differ right this moment.

    • I don’t mind cold with calm or at least mild winds. I’ve been trying to walk, but between the sinus crud, and now a pack of 7-9 feral dogs that are attacking pets and chasing people, I’m a little wary. We’re supposed to get into the single digits on Thursday-Friday, after dropping all day Wednesday.

      • I hope you carry a dog obedience tool, perhaps in 9mm. “Play dead” would encourage the others…

      • That was supposed to wait until I got the French, and finished the headers.

        A dog obedience tool in 9mm sounds appropriate. “Play dead” with a bang would serve as pour encourager les autres.

        • Alas, yes, alas in that people need to carry that sort of dog-dissuader. I generally carry one close-contact dissuader, and one stand-off dissuader, but non-lethal. Since these dogs are not small, and are numerous, well, pepper spray might not be sufficient. (Plus, if they come from upwind, I am NOT deploying pepper spray unless it is the narrow stream gel that doesn’t blow back at me.)

          • Let me add for clarity that I do NOT want to have to take that step. I’d prefer that the city sent animal control and caught the dogs, and located their owners or euthanized the animals. I do NOT want to have to use lethal force against anything. That’s a true last-resort option.

            • We had a neighbor (scumbag variety) who had a German Shepherd and a young Lab. The GS was reasonable until the Lab came around; the youn’un was aggressive, ant that would trigger the GS. They went roaming on another neighbor’s (also a pain in the tail) ranch and after some serious harrassment, they ended up not coming home. (He warned them, but they didn’t listen.)

              Both problematic neighbors are gone, and the current neighbors and dogs are reasonably well behaved.

            • I’ve had to help put down dogs that harassed livestock. We had warned the owners, other neighbors had warned the owners, and the owners ignored or laughed at us. I cleared it with the sheriff. So when the dogs attacked some alpacas and show horses . . . My boss wanted to horsewhip the dogs’ owners for not training and/or restraining the dogs.

  6. Even up here in the north, I find that my tolerance for cold has dropped dramatically in recent years. I wait for temps to get above zero to do things outside, even if the wind isn’t blowing. I remember dealing with much colder temperatures in my youth, but don’t really want to repeat some of those experiences.

    • I learned that hard way that you can’t wear a hat without flaps (or ear muffs) at -20F. Frost-nipped the tips of my ears while moving an airplane, and they are still cold sensitive.

      • I have an ancient wool hat that covers the ear tips. Haven’t needed it so far this winter, though a Stihl ballcap with the coat’s hood deployed works a charm.

  7. Got a little snow, but bundled up to push it off before it packed into ice. Started with a wind chill of 10 deg F, ended at -5. Feet and hands were both cold inside double layers, but I wanted the stuff moved.

    Heavy wool cap and scarf saved the day, warming the air enough that I could breathe easier. Got inside and I could almost wring moisture from the scarf.

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