'Life-Threatening' Cold Prompts Calls for Safety in South Dakota

According to the National Weather Service in Aberdeen, temperatures are expected to drop to 35 below in the area tonight, and that's not even the wind chill.

by Shannon Marvel, American News, Aberdeen, S.D. / January 29, 2019
AP/Nam Y. Huh

(TNS) — Dangerously cold weather is expected to hit much of state through Thursday, which means folks ought to prepare for their own safety and the safety of animals.

According to the National Weather Service in Aberdeen, temperatures are expected to drop to 35 below in the area tonight, and that's not even the wind chill.

The record low is 32 below, which was set in 1916.

State Climatologist Laura Edwards said the area saw similar frigid weather in January 2014.

"We do see cold like this, but not every year. Again, that doesn't mean we can ignore how much it can harm people and animals," Edwards said.

"You can get frostbite in as little as 10 minutes. Being protected is the biggest concern," she said.

Edwards noted that a lot of the farmers and ranchers she's visited with recently are aware of the brutal weather. She said that those with livestock are preparing by making sure their animals have enough bedding and more food to produce energy to keep themselves warm.

"I've seen a couple early calves come out. Those are hopefully few and far between, but some people are getting close to that calving season," Edwards said.

She said that while cattle and other livestock are more adaptive to cold weather, that's not always the case with other animals, such as most household pets.

"Those animals out in kennels may not be as prepared," she said, adding that if humans are cold, their pets are, too.

Edwards said that despite being covered in fur, animals are also susceptible to frostbite, especially on their noses and paws.

Brown County Emergency Management Director Scott Meints is hoping to avoid situations like he and others dealt with Sunday night, when high winds caused zero visibility throughout the area. He said that he had heard of at least 30 stranded motorists in the county who needed assistance.

"I really think the strong winds caught people off guard last night," Meints said Monday.

He warned that the frigid arctic air is "nothing to mess around with."

"This is life-threatening stuff that's coming," Meints said. "When you start talking 30 to 35 below, that is just downright dangerous. People really need to be prepared. They need to make sure they've got a kit in their car to stay warm, the things they need in a winter survival kit in a vehicle and, again, making sure that you're dressed appropriately."

He echoed Edwards, saying that it only takes minutes for a person to get frostbite in these conditions.

"So, again, if I just need to walk over here or to the next farm, you're asking for some serious trouble. If people become stranded, then we are putting first responders at stake. We had a whole lot of search and rescue people and law enforcement officials out rescuing people in zero visibility. I can't commend those folks enough that were out and risking their own lives. The blowing snow was the problem (Sunday) night. It wasn't that you couldn't get anywhere, it was that you couldn't see. I just hope that people are prepared and smart about it this time."

Follow @smarvel_AAN on Twitter.

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