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Wind chills mean caution

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WORTHINGTON -- If the temperature is minus 10 degrees Fahrenheit and winds are 25 to 30 miles per hour, it takes approximately 10 minutes for body tissue to begin freezing, according to the wind chill chart developed by the National Weather Service.

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With wind chill temperatures in the negative 30s on Sunday night and Monday, frostbite was a very real threat to anyone who spent time outside.

"On Sunday there was freezing rain, no visibility, the roads were slick and the chances of landing a vehicle in the ditch increased quite a bit," Nobles County Sheriff Kent Wilkening said Monday. "When you add in the wind chill, you have a dangerous situation."

Even with a strongly worded travel advisory, there were vehicles on the roads.

Visibility was almost non-existent, and more than one traveler found him or herself stranded in the ditch or on the side of the road.

"The challenge for the deputies Sunday night was visibility," Wilkening explained. "Just getting to the people in time."

While it's the job of law enforcement to protect the citizens, risking a deputy's life to rescue a person who ignored warnings, drove around a barricade and ended up in the ditch can be frustrating.

"It's our job to help people, but if we tell you to stay home and you don't, you could be putting my deputy's life in danger, because we will try to rescue you," Wilkening admitted.

Having made more than one rescue trip himself, Wilkening recommends being prepared if a person must travel on hazardous roads.

"Take your time, watch for ice slicks and have a winter survival kit in your car," he said.

The kit should include a blanket, warm clothes, boots, hat, mittens and even foot or hand warmers.

"The warmers work very well," Wilkening stated. "If you get stranded, you can survive ... for a while."

The most frostbite-susceptible parts of the body are the extremities -- fingers, toes, ears and the nose. Symptoms include a loss of feeling in the extremity and a pale or white appearance.

If body temperature falls below 95 degrees, hypothermia will begin to set in. Warning signs include uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, slurred speech and drowsiness. Hypothermia victims need to be warmed slowly, with warmth to the body core first, not the extremities. Warming the extremities first drives cold blood to the heart, which can cause body temperature to drop further and may lead to heart failure.

The easiest way to avoid frostbite and hypothermia is to heed travel warnings and not venture out during advisories.

"When we say no travel is advised, we say it for a reason," Wilkening emphasized. "We'll try to rescue stranded motorists, but we can't always make it. Squad cars don't have anything magical that keeps them out of ditches. They're just cars."

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