Bitter cold brings record low temperatures to region

Published 9:36 am Friday, February 20, 2015

The surface of the Blackwater River froze on Thursday. Cain Madden | Tidewater News

The surface of the Blackwater River froze on Thursday. Cain Madden | Tidewater News

Capping a week that saw several inches of snow and ice, Thursday night’s “Siberian Express” Arctic blast had Western Tidewater residents feeling like they were stuck at the North Pole. Temperatures dipped down into single digits overnight, with the wind chill making it feel below zero outside.

The record for the Hampton Roads area, in Norfolk, is officially -3 degrees per the National Weather Service, which was recorded on Jan. 21, 1985. That same storm brought Franklin its unofficial record low of -5, according to The 1985 storm also created the state’s record low of -30, set at Mountain Lake.

Regardless, it will break the record for the day, Feb. 19, which was 13 degrees, set in 1896.

Because of the high, bitter winds, the National Weather Service in Wakefield issued a wind chill advisory on early Thursday morning. This remains in effect through noon today.

Meteorologist Jonathan McGee believes that the temperature will hover in the high teens on Friday, and warm up for the weekend. Sunday, he said, expect temperatures to reach the lower 50s, which is average for this time of the year. The normal low, meanwhile, is about 33 degrees.

McGee said that Wednesday evening’s temperatures were also close to a record, for that day, anyway. Measured at 17 degrees just before midnight, it fell just three degrees short of breaking the record set in 1903.

The National Weather Service is tracking another cold front, which could reach the area as soon as Monday evening. This storm, however, will likely only bring a dusting of snow and temperatures around the freezing mark.

Along with such cold comes the threat of downed power lines and/or outages, but Dominion Power’s Rob Richardson said on Thursday that the company was ready to respond as quickly as possible to any problems throughout the evening and into Friday.

“Like everybody else, we’re bracing for the cold weather. Our crews are ready and our ships are filled in the event of any outages across the state,” he said, noting that there were only 41 outages for their more than 2.5 million customers state-wide.

With the increase in extreme temps, Dominion wants to remind customers to use their energy wisely.

“If you have a room that doesn’t get used, close the vents. It’ll not only save money, but it will also lower the usage overall,” Richardson said. “We don’t anticipate any problems, though.”

Meanwhile, local schools are closed again, marking the fourth-consecutive day without school for some. Icy patches on the interstates and secondary roads have made traveling difficult, and the extreme cold poses a threat to those waiting for the bus.

Because frostbite can occur within as little as 30 minutes in such temperatures, Southampton Memorial Hospital is advising people to stay inside and avoid prolonged exposure. The same goes for pets, as animals can suffer from the same cold-related issues if left outside.

“In general, the winter months are when we see the highest emergency room volume,” said Dr. Donald Bowling, chief of staff at Southampton Memorial. “We’ll see an increase in people predisposed with pneumonia beforehand and now their septic, or an increase in trauma, where people are dealing with hypothermia and frostbite after an accident.”

The best way of avoiding a cold-related issue is to avoid going outside, and it’s important to dress well if you do. But Bowling said that some people are more likely to be affected than others.

“Things such as extremes of age, whether elderly or newborn; medical conditions and medications; being wet; or having exposed skin can all contribute to frostbite or hypothermia,” he said.