Wintry week brings record cold to Carbondale

By Austin Miller, @AMiller_DE

It might be time to move into igloos. 

SIU students did their best impression of “March of the Penguins” while walking through the frigid temperatures on campus this week, minus the narration by Morgan Freeman. 

After classes were canceled Monday because of two inches of snow, cold air has made being outside less enjoyable. Forecasts now predict the temperatures to plummet even more.

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WSIL TV’s news station in Carterville reached below minus 5 on Tuesday for the first time since 1996, said one of its meteorologists Nick Hausen.

Carbondale’s Wednesday forecast projected between 3 and minus 6 degrees, with wind chills of 15 below, much lower than the February average low of 27. Hausen said Carbondale hit minus 4 in January 2014, which had not happened since 2004.

Hausen said the Popsicle-like conditions of this week are not ordinary for southern Illinois.

“For us to see two days below zero, consecutively, is somewhat rare,” he said.

Cold temperatures may seem like just a hassle, but there are real health issues at stake.

With the current forecast, exposed skin would succumb to frostbite in 30 minutes, Hausen said. It is important for people to keep all areas covered with hats, gloves and coats because they can get frostbite sooner then they might think.

Several conditions have facilitated the arctic blast from Canada, Hausen said.

The first of which is the present snow. From there it all comes down to clouds and wind.

Some might think a clear sky would bring warmer air, but that is not the case. Hausen said clouds act as a blanket, trapping warm air below. Without the clouds, the heat escapes, making people need an actual blanket.

People may also assume higher winds decrease the temperature, but Hausen said that is also not the case.

Strong winds make people feel colder because it bombards them, but calm winds actually are colder. The wind just mixes air around, not giving it the opportunity to drop, he said.

To combat the cold, students made their best burrito impersonation, wrapping themselves in coats, scarves and gloves.

However, some students resorted to unconventional methods to stay warm.

Taylor Buley, a freshman from Spring Bay studying zoology, and Sydney Kolb, a junior from Mt. Carmel studying microbiology, huddled around an air vent behind Morris Library Wednesday afternoon.

Buley said she hopes the university will cancel classes again.

“People living at Thompson Point have to walk all the way across campus, and with the wind chill, it is not going to be good for them at all,” Buley said.

Larry Raymond graduated from SIU in 1994 with a degree in atmospheric science and spent 10 years in Green Bay, Wis., as a meteorologist. Raymond has since moved back to Mulkeytown and runs the website SIWeather.net.

Even though he is more than 20 years removed from campus, he knows how cold it can be.

“Thompson Point to the Communications Building is not that far, but when it’s that cold, it feels far away,” Raymond said.

This weekend’s forecast does not offer much relief for those bothered by winter weather.

Hausen said southern Illinois could experience some ice on Friday night. Saturday could bring heavy snow or rain, depending on the temperature. Flooding could be a problem with the frozen ground and melting snow, and Sunday could bring more flurries.

Austin Miller can be reached at [email protected]

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