It’s so cold that you have to break the smoke off your chimney.
It’s so cold that when I put on my coat to take out the garbage it didn’t want to go.
It’s so cold that your eyes freeze shut when you blink.
It’s so cold that we had to chisel the dog off a lamp-post.
It’s so cold that that my long-johns are hiding.
It’s so cold that that your coat needs a coat.
It’s so cold that that my internet froze.
It’s so cold that the optician is giving away free ice scrapers with every new pair of eyeglasses.
It’s so cold that we had to chop up the piano for firewood – but we only got two chords.
It’s so cold that my mail broke when I tried to pry open the envelope.
It’s so cold that the mercury in the thermometer is just – GONE!
When it gets below zero outside…
At the time of this posting we are currently going through a prolonged period of WICKED COLD TEMPERATURES.
Today’s high is only expected to reach -6 F (that’s the high!)
Tonight we’re looking at sub -20 temps. Dangerous cold.
For the foreseeable forecast future we’re looking at high temperatures below or around zero with consistent low temps in the teens and twenties BELOW ZERO.
Why do I mention this? Because every time this extreme cold happens, I think about preparedness for this type of very dangerous cold weather.
Those of you who live in parts of the country where you spend days or weeks below zero, you know what I mean when I say that it’s a special kind of cold! Wicked cold!
As you step outside and inhale that first breath of -20, your lungs complain as the cold shocks your tissue. Your nasal passageway crunches and freezes right up while your eyelids immediately begin to feel like they’re turning to ice…
Any exposed skin begins to tingle and send signals to your brain that it’s probably not such a good idea being outside right now.
And God help you if the wind is blowing! The windchill is downright brutal. Especially on any tiny bit of exposed skin.
The coldest I’ve experienced (so far!) has been -32 F (thermometer). Fortunately it was not windy that morning — although insanely cold. Now that’s wicked cold!
Preparedness Aspect Of Wicked Cold Temperatures Below Zero
The most dangerous aspect of this kind of extreme cold is being caught outside in that environment. It will not take long to overcome you if not properly dressed and prepared.
Especially if you live out in the rural countryside and are venturing out in this kind of cold, good preparedness will consist of at least the following:
1. Proper Clothing and Outerwear
2. A Fire starter Kit
3. The means to communicate for help
4. Alternate Heating Source
The reason I differentiated those living rural:
Those who live in population dense regions are more likely to quickly get help if they’re in trouble. The sheer number of people living there will create encounters with others, almost regardless of where you are. That said, only you know the exceptions to that statement based on where you live and where you go…
Proper Clothing and Outerwear During Subzero, Wicked Cold temps
I have been living in cold country for most of my life. I consider myself well equipped for it. However even the most well equipped can sometimes make mistakes or overlook something or make a dumb decision once in awhile. So when it is that cold outside, take it seriously. Think about “what if”.
Number one is “shelter” which includes your personal shell, your clothes and outerwear. Don’t wear cotton against your skin if possible. If it gets wet from sweat or water, it will not dry adequately (or at all) until you take it off. Use synthetics.
Layers. Layers create insulated air gaps as well as the important convenience of removing one if you work yourself up into a sweat. Although at the temps we’re talking about in this post, chances are you will not be removing any layers!
Well insulated jacket / coat / hat / face mask / gloves / thermals / neck wear / googles / boots/ pants. There is a difference between ordinary winter wear and that which truly has substantial insulating properties.
A Short Story
Yesterday late afternoon I went outside to plug in the truck. It’s a diesel and it has a block heater for cold weather like this. I didn’t dress warm for this task since it was just going to be quick. Put on an ordinary winter coat and slipped on my winter boots. I did grab a pair of gloves and put on a hat. HOWEVER…
After plugging in the truck I turned around to see a bucket of deer feed placed outside the front door. Mrs.J’s hint for me to go over to the feeder and dump some in. I figured I better, or else… So I walk over to the spot, which is about 100 feet from the house, and do my chore. I’m now getting cold. The wind is blowing too. The temperature was hovering right around zero.
I walk back towards the house. Mrs.J sticks her head out the door and shouts, “Check the propane while you’re out there!”. We had been talking about making sure that we weren’t running low given the wicked cold forecast. So, I change course and head over to get the shovel which is on the other side of the house where the dog does his “duty”. By now I”m getting COLDER…
Walking back around to the other side of the house, I locate the orange sticks poking out of the snow where the access cover of the tank is buried under the snow. I start to dig it out. Yeeesh! I’m getting pretty darn cold! That wind is biting into my face. I didn’t have my subzero coat on so my body torso is getting colder. I did not have long johns on and it now feels like I don’t have ANY pants on as the wind cuts right through them…
I dig faster. Then, clink, I hit the metal cover! Dig dig dig… Got it! Flipped the cover open, checked to discover 560 gallons still in there (I figured there was plenty, but Mrs.J wanted to know for sure).
I quickly head back to the house, step inside, and stand there as my glasses instantly fog over into a thick haze. Can’t see a thing. At least I”m thawing out!
Here’s the point of this rambling story… It doesn’t take long to get really cold when it’s really cold outside! Wow. You might think that you’re okay with whatever you’re doing, but if something gets twisted in your plans, it’s best to have prepared accordingly!
A Fire starter Kit for Subzero temps
If you ever did get stranded, this will probably save your life. Just at least having a BIC lighter in your pocket is some assurance.
Fire. Fire is hot. Hot is good when it’s 20 below zero outside!
The means to communicate for help
For most, a cell phone will take care of this aspect. A call will get someone coming to bail you out if you need it.
For us, we live out in the boonies and cell coverage is spotty. Whenever either one of us goes outside, we let each other know what we’re doing, where we’re going on the property. If it’s beyond the local visual perimeter of the house, we take a 2-way radio with us.
Communication. Let’s say I’m out snow shoeing somewhere in one of the fields or in the woods. What if I twist an ankle or break something and can’t move! If no one knows I”m there, that’s a BIG problem. Communication!
Alternate Heating Source for Subzero Temps
Another thing that I think about when it gets this wicked cold, is how bad it would be if someone’s furnace goes out.
With temperatures below zero, especially if it’s windy, a house can get cold surprisingly fast. This depends of course on the home’s build quality with regards to insulation and air-tightness. However it still happens fast.
You literally will freeze in your own home after awhile. So what about alternate sources of heat? Sounds like a good idea to me!
Consider adding a pellet stove or a wood stove as supplemental heat.
Install a supplemental LP gas heater. They make “in wall” units that could be installed at an exterior wall. Propane tank sitting outside.
Are You Having Cold Weather?
This wicked cold snap is presently across much of the country. What affects / effects are you seeing? What might you add to this post?