BY MEREDITH WATHNE
As a North Dakotan, I often consider myself a warrior of the north for being able to withstand the all too familiar minus 40 wind chills. When my friends from Florida complain that it hit “45 degrees last night,” or “I had to bust out my jeans,” I have to hold back rude retorts and struggle to sound sympathetic.
Upper Midwest winters are bleak and frigid. If the temperature climbs over 15 degrees, it’s considered a heat wave. However, if the wind is blowing at the Fargo wind-speed average of 13.2 mph, the 15 degrees drops down to a cool “feels like” of just 2 degrees; kick the wind up to 20 mph, and we have a wind chill in the negatives.
So, why am I giving you quick meteorology lesson? Last Friday, we were fortunate enough to experience one of those winter “heat waves.” At one point my car thermometer read 34 degrees. In true upper Midwest fashion, that meant the coats came off, slippers replaced boots and a few daring souls even flashed their legs in shorts. Initially, I laughed and shrugged my shoulders, thinking “that’s North Dakota for you.” But the more I thought about it, I realized those people are downright stupid.
Though we may seem built to endure the great outdoors with nothing but cracked, calloused skin (a common side effect of dry winters), we most certainly are not. Skin exposed to wind-chills below zero can suffer severe frostbite after only 30 minutes and after only five minutes during extreme cold.
A severe example would be the Duluth student who recently lost all of her fingers on both hands, all the toes on one foot and the tips of her toes on the other. Her wounds were due to spending nine hours in minus 40 wind chills. This isn’t the anticipated result of walking to or from class in shorts or a T-shirt, but nonetheless, it encapsulates the power of Mother Nature. Frankly, she’s lucky to be alive.
Not only does one run the risk of frostbite when underdressing outside, they also increase the potential for picking up a cold and getting sick. As a busy college student myself, getting sick and missing school does nothing but make me fall behind. Something most cannot afford.
Yes, we all want to seem tough and cool, and believe me, after minus 50 wind chills, that 20-degree day is almost like a day at the beach. But next time you decide to go running out the door with exposed skin, consider the consequences. How much do you value your appendages?
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