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Schools weather plunging temps

Published 5:24pm Monday, January 6, 2014

No plans to alter schedules as wind chill goes negative

With a daytime wind chill index set to drop to minus 5, Suffolk schools were planning to remain open Tuesday but monitoring the situation as frigid weather descended on the city from late Monday.

Public schools were planning to operate normal schedules, school district spokeswoman Bethanne Bradshaw reported. “Officials will continue to monitor the situation, working with the city of Suffolk’s Division of Emergency Management as well as the National Weather Service,” she added.

Parents and staff were to be notified of any delayed start or cancellation via the automatic phone messaging system, as well as www.spsk12.net, WSPS Charter Channel 6, and local commercial television stations.

Building supervisors were checking heating systems, according to Bradshaw, and school bus drivers were asked to warm buses earlier ahead of picking up students.

Nansemond-Suffolk Academy planned to open with a regular schedule, though officials were “carefully monitoring the weather advisories,” school spokeswoman Ashley Greene stated. Any changes would be shared with local television stations, posted at www.nsacademy.org website and emailed to NSA families, she added.

Yvette Farrenkopf, an assistant administrator there, said Suffolk Christian Academy was planning to operate as normal. “I haven’t heard anything different,” she said.

Salvation Army Suffolk Corps officer Susan Shiels said the organization stood ready to respond to any need, but was not planning anything significantly different on account of the cold.

As usual, the Bank Street building would open through the day, providing respite from the cold, along with food and hot coffee, she said.

“I may be able to give out hand warmers we use for the bell-ringers,” she said. “We have about a dozen left.”

According to the National Weather Service, Suffolk lows were to hover around 13 degrees overnight Monday, with wind chill indexes as low as minus 3 after midnight.

On Tuesday, with highs in the lower 20s and westerly winds at 15 to 20 mph, gusting up to 30 mph, wind chill indexes were set to drop to 5 below zero.

Though cold, the predicted freeze in Suffolk pales in comparison to other parts of the country: CNN reported the cancellation of 3,400 flights nationwide by noon Monday, and the coldest temperatures in 20 years — for many parts — translated to a wind chill of minus 60 in Minnesota, and parts of the Midwest where daytime highs wouldn’t reach zero.

Elsewhere in Virginia, Harrisonburg was bracing for a daytime wind chill index as low as minus 20.

The Virginia Department of Health has urged caution. “When exposed to cold temperatures, your body begins to lose heat faster than it can be produced, causing cold-weather health problems such as frostbite and hypothermia,” State Health Commissioner Cynthia Romero explained in a news release.

“Neither of these conditions should be taken lightly, and all Virginians should take the necessary steps to lower their risk of exposure.”

The department recommended dressing warmly, including several layers of loose-fitting clothing and covering the face and mouth; staying dry and removing any wet clothing quickly; limiting time outdoors and returning indoors immediately if shivering starts; and finding somewhere else to warm up if the heat at home doesn’t exist or work properly.

Frostbite, which can result in amputations, can start with white or grayish-yellow skin, skin that is firm or waxy, and numbness.

Warning signs of hypothermia, the department continued, can include shivering, exhaustion, confusion, fumbling hands, memory loss, slurred speech or drowsiness, and in infants, a bright red color, cold skin, or very low energy.

City of Suffolk spokeswoman Diana Klink said folks were welcome to escape the cold inside heated public buildings, such as libraries, during regular business hours.

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