The dangers of Montana's sub-zero weather

Hypothermia can set in within minutes
Great Falls Cold
Posted at 10:16 AM, Jan 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-14 12:26:15-05

GREAT FALLS — Arctic air is in place across parts of Montana and it's going to stay there on Tuesday as well.

Nearly all of north-central Montana is seeing daytime highs that are below zero, and overnight lows will fall as cold as the teens below zero, with some spots close to -20.

The coldest wind chills are expected in Glacier, Liberty, Pondera, and Toole counties where are Wind Chill Warning is in effect though 5 p.m. Tuesday. Frostbite will be possible in as little as five minutes on exposed skin.

The rest of north-central Montana is under a Wind Chill Advisory through 5 p.m. Thursday, with wind chills ranging from -20 to -40 possible. In those areas, frostbite can occur on exposed skin in as little as 10 minutes.

"Bundle up, put a scarf over your face, wrap it around, signs are numbness, red, white, blueish or grayish, yellow skin, waxiness, stiff fingers, clumsiness,” advised Cascade City-County Health Department Public Health nurse Davida Hryszko.

"If you have a rescue inhaler or Albuterol, use that about 15 minutes before you go out into the cold air or before you go out and do any kind of exercise," CCDH Public Health nurse Mary Kay Burns added.

If you are concerned about asthma or trouble breathing, or if your face, fingers, or toes are numb or discolored from being outdoors you may have already been outside too long. If you feel shivers or have slurred speech, you could be at risk of hypothermia.

Great Falls Public Schools Superintendent Tom Moore told MTN News the safety of students is their main focus when weather is like this.

"Our assistant superintendents for secondary and elementary [schools] are in close communication with their principals and if it's dipping down below freezing, we're monitoring that,” he said.

When it comes to keeping students safe, there are a few ways GFPS notifies parents of weather concerns. For example, there are safety tips and reminders on the GFPS website and social media pages.

Moore also says it is ultimately up to parent if they decide to keep their children home and that when it comes to weather concerns, absences are considered excused.