Wyoming Wildlife magazine - 29

Wind Chill Chart

dangerous. Wind can quickly turn even moderate
temperatures into potentially threatening conditions.
Wind can be threatening in and of itself. My son
Jeff, who was 12 at the time, and I were backpacking
along the Rocky Mountain Front one July when a
low-pressure system blew through, with wind gusts in
excess of 90 mph. We were on a faint trail climbing
through a narrow gorge with a rushing river 1,000
feet below. The wind forced us to crawl on our hands
and knees for more than 300 yards until we reached
a coulee for protection.
Combine moisture with wind and even comfortable temperatures can become life-threatening. Four
decades ago, I climbed high into a mountain cirque
and spent the afternoon photographing a small band
of bighorn rams. The weather was perfect, mid-60s,
until a late-afternoon thunderstorm blew in. Three
miles from the truck, I was on my way back when the
wind-driven rain started, drenching me with bodycore-stealing cold. Without rain gear and wearing
blue jeans, a cotton shirt and a polar fleece vest, I was
totally unprepared for the conditions. Within a mile,
I started shivering, the first sign of hypothermia. I
have little memory of stumbling back to the truck, an
experience that still haunts me. What I do remember
is stripping off all my clothes,wrapping myself with a
wool blanket I had in the truck and turning the heater
on high. Several hours passed before I felt OK to drive.
But I survived.

I was fortunate to make it out of that situation. An
estimated 25,000 people a year in the United States
die from hypothermia. These dangerous situations
can play out in confusing and sometimes seemingly
bizarre ways.
For 36 years I taught at a community college, and
one fall two students went on a late-afternoon deer
hunt. Despite a forecast for rain, they dressed pretty
much the same way I had been during my close call.
Just after dark, one of the boys returned saying he and
his buddy had gotten separated and he couldn't find
him. The local search and rescue team went looking.
Late the following day, his body was found sitting with
his back against a tree, dressed only in his underwear.
All his other clothes were neatly folded nearby.
My experience and that of the college student show
that people in top physical shape, given the perfect
circumstances, are not immune. Even if they think
they are prepared for anything. Until they aren't.
The symptoms of hypothermia are progressive, and
often shivering is the only symptom a person can easily
notice. Other symptoms include:
· Slurred speech or mumbling
· Slow, shallow breathing
· Weak pulse
· Clumsiness or lack of coordination
· Drowsiness or very low energy
· Confusion or memory loss
· Loss of consciousness

		

(Chart information courtesy of the
National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration and the National
Weather Service)

Wyoming Wildlife | 29


https://www.weather.gov/safety/cold-wind-chill-chart

Wyoming Wildlife magazine

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