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Sue Bush
More articles from Sue Bush

Brrrrrr...It's Cold

By Jen Thomas
12:00AM / Wednesday, February 07, 2007

A downtown North Adams air temperature was 22 degrees Farhenheit on Tuesday afternoon, but a wind chill made it seem much colder.
Baby, it’s cold outside.

A late arrival of winter took Berkshire residents by surprise. Accustomed to fluctuating warm temperatures, a lack of snow, and the effects of El Nino, the new weather trend – complete with some below zero temperatures – had townsfolk scrambling to cope with the cold.

Too Cold

“I think it’s too cold,” said Brian Millett, a senior at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. Millett, who hails from Abington, Mass. has survived North Adams winters before, but the unexpected drop in temperature took its toll.

“All of a sudden, with this deep chill, I just can’t stand it,” he said.

Courtney Llewellyn, another MCLA senior, summed up a shared sentiment at the college.

“I hate winter,” she said.

Tokhes Freeze?

With weather reports predicting temperatures to stay below freezing until next week, college students and townsfolk alike are finding ways to fight the chill.

Chris Gauthier, a student who lives on East Main Street, rides his bike to campus.

“I ride my bike everyday, so I have to dress particularly warm – with extra layers – just to not freeze my tokhes,” he said, bundled in a hat, gloves, and several layers of sweaters.

Alyssa Masucci, a sophomore Resident Advisor at the college, offered her own advice for weathering the next few days.

“Wear lots of long underwear, drink lots of hot cocoa, and run really fast to class,” she said.

Weathering the Weather

Bundling up and protecting your fingers, noses, toes, and ears are just some suggestions to protect yourself from some nasty cold weather hazards. The biggest dangers are hypothermia and frostbite, both of which can be avoided.


“Hypothermia means the body temperature has fallen below normal. It occurs when your body can't produce enough energy to keep the internal body temperature warm enough. It can kill you. Heart failure causes most deaths in hypothermia,” according to the American Heart Association’s www.americanheart.org Internet web site.

“Symptoms include lack of coordination, mental confusion, slowed reactions, shivering and sleepiness.”

According to www.webmd.com , the symptoms of hypothermia include:

Shivering

Cold, pale, or blue-gray skin

Lack of interest or concern (apathy)

Poor judgment

Mild unsteadiness in balance or walking

Slurred speech

Numb hands and fingers and difficulty performing tasks


If a person suspects a case of hypothermia, call for medical attention immediately. Provide the victim with warm, dry clothing and a warm drink (but never alcohol!). Never apply direct heat to warm a victim. This may cause cold blood to rush to the heart, which may be fatal.


Frostbite, another winter worry, is the freezing of tissues, most common in the extremities.

“High winds, wet skin, tight clothes, and alcohol use increase the risk of frostbite,” according to the Encyclopedia Britannica www.britannica.com Internet web site.

"Cell damage, tissue dehydration, and oxygen depletion caused by freezing and thawing can lead to blood-cell disruption, clotting in capillaries, and gangrene. The toes, fingers, ears, and nose are usually affected first, becoming cold, hard, white, or bloodless.”

Seek medical attention immediately if you suspect you have frostbite. Keep in mind that keeping the body warm is the best protection.

Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow

Not everyone is cursing the change in weather, though.

Jiminy Peak, in Hancock, has seen an increase in the amount of people interested in skiing and snowboarding since the weather turned more snow-friendly.

“Business has picked up quite a bit,” said Betsy Strickler, director of marketing for Jiminy Peak. “Three weeks ago, skier visits were down 48 percent, and, as of [Tuesday], we’re only down 30 percent.”

The resort has already received a huge increase in reservations for the week of Presidents’ Day, and Strickler said they expect to be “crazy busy.”

The weather predictions for this week are perfect for snow-making at the mountain. Mid-teens and low humidity at night make for prime snow creation; Jiminy currently boasts a five-foot base of snow, and they plan to keep that depth throughout the coming weeks.

Cold Woes

Colder weather, though, may become a problem.

“We actually wish it won’t get quite so cold,” Strickler said. “The pipes and water lines can freeze, and then, we can’t produce snow.”

Luckily, temperatures in the mid to upper 20s is prime skiing weather, and Weather.com predicts a stable 22 – 24 degrees in the Berkshires for the rest of the week, moving up into the low 30s next Wednesday.

The Mountain Goat Outdoor Specialty Shop in Williamstown is also grateful for the shift in weather.

Warm Woes

“Cold temperatures help our business,” said Jay Merselis, one of the owners of the store. “We’ve seen a pretty substantial increase in purchasing long underwear, hats, socks, and outerwear, like ski pants.”

Poor business due to the warm weather kept the Mountain Goat from making money on rentals.

“We’d like to see more cold and substantial snow,” Merselis said.
With the coming of snow, the Mountain Goat could rent out their snow shoes or cross country skis, cutting back on the losses they sustained during the beginning of the season.

“The weather takes a toll on us,” Merselis said. “We’ve been down.”


The motto for this winter might be ‘better late than never,’ but that depends on the perspective!
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