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Local Editorials

It feels really darn cold

Last year, I got through the winter season wearing my heavy winter coat just five times. We’re barely into January, and I’ve already worn it eight times this year. Two years ago, I went the entire winter without wearing a coat at all.

But, believe it or not, the National Weather Service says the temperature Monday will be nearly 30 degrees warmer now than it would have been two years ago.

Two years ago, the NWS implemented a “new” wind chill factor calculation that it said was more accurate. As a result, the temperature this morning, minus-5 F, now “feels like” minus-15 F, instead of minus-10 F.

Wind Chill is not the actual temperature, but rather how wind and cold feel on exposed skin. As the wind increases, heat is carried away from the body at an accelerated rate, driving down the body temperature. Seniors and infants are most susceptible to wind chill; animals are also affected.

Monday, when we’re supposed to see the worst of this latest cold blast, the wind chill will be nearly minus-40 F. Under the old index system, it would have been closer to minus-70 F.

Frankly, I think my body stops telling the difference at zero. And, either way, exposed skin will freeze — that’s frostbite — if exposed for 15 minutes (or less). Monday, frostbite will set in if skin is exposed for 10 minutes.

Frostbite is damage to body tissue caused by extreme cold. It causes
a loss of feeling and a white or pale appearance in extremities, such as fingers, toes, ear lobes or the tip of the nose.

If you detect frostbite symptoms, get medical help immediately. If you must wait for help, slowly rewarm the affected areas — emphasis on slowly — but, if the person is also showing signs of hypothermia, warm his or her body core before the extremities.

Hypothermia is a condition brought on when the body temperature drops to less than 95 F, which can be deadly. For those who do survive, there will likely be lasting kidney, liver and pancreatic problems.

Warning signs of hypothermia include: uncontrollable shivering, memory loss,
disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness and apparent exhaustion. If you observe these symptoms, take the person’s temperature. If it’s less than 95 F, seek medical care immediately.

Again, if medical care isn’t immediately available, you must begin warming the victim’s body core, slowly, first. Warming the arms and legs first drives cold blood toward the heart and can lead to heart failure.

If necessary, use your own body heat to help. Get the victim into dry clothing and wrap in a warm blanket, covering the head and neck. Do not give alcohol, drugs, coffee or any hot beverage or food. Warm broth is the first food to offer.

It hasn’t been this cold (actual air temperature) since Jan. 2, 2010. But, it’s been colder than that. In 1996, the air temperature reached minus-20 F, and the record, set in the 1880s, was around minus-30 F.

Those are the record lows. What about the record-lowest high temperature? Well, they kind of stick out like sore thumbs in the NWS recordbook, because there have only been three days since 1996 where the high temperature for the day has been on the negative size of zero.

The coldest high temperature for any given day was recorded at minus-14 F on Jan. 12, 1912. The National Weather Service expects this incoming air mass to be the coldest we’ve seen since February of 1996.

Again, my body will simply register it as “darn cold.”

• • •

Hilton Magic

Iowa lost a good friend this week with the passing of Johnny Orr. I grew up going to Cyclone basketball games and loved his dramatic entrance with the old “Tonight Show” theme song blaring when he would walk into the Hilton Colisseum arena.

I loved the old “Thank you for your support” promotions he would do with Jim Walden. And I loved the way he would rip into officials and opposing coaches who caught his ire, without fear.

Like most Cyclone fans, I was sad to see him retire. I think he still had a lot of good coaching years left in him, and those who came through the system would have been better for it. But, I can think of no one better to revive and carry on Johnny’s legacy in Ames than the man calling the shots today.

I played in one game against The Mayor — I think he was just The Principal back then — when I was in high school. As one might expect, he completely schooled me on the court.

In utter amazement, after he had stripped me of the ball in mid-shot (cleanly) and took the ball down to the other end for an easy layup, I just simply said, “You’ve got to be kidding me.” The ref thought I was talking to him, and gave me a technical foul.

But, even after Johnny retired from coaching, he didn’t fade away. I met him again my first year as a sportswriter in 2000 at a Coaches Vs. Cancer golf event he was co-hosting with Dr. Tom Davis.

I was in a group that golfed with Johnny, so I got about four hours’ worth of his stories. Man, were they great.

A few years later, to chronicle the anniversary of tiny little Dinsdale’s 1952 state basketball tournament consolation championship, I got to talk with Johnny again. This time, we talked about his Dubuque Senior squad, which lost to Iowa’s own version of “Hickory, Indiana,” in the first round of the tournament.

I found it amazing he still remembered the names of the guys on the court. Not just his, but the “Dinsdale Five,” as well.

A few years ago, during the “Dark Days” of college basketball in Iowa, a colleague of mine lamented the “loss of Hilton Magic” when Johnny retired. I quickly corrected him. The magic didn’t leave with Johnny. Johnny was Hilton Magic.

I think Fred Hoiberg asking Johnny to come out of the tunnel with him before the Michigan game (Johnny coached the Wolverines before ISU, and is still the winningest coach at both schools) was fantastic. I didn’t know Johnny was in poor health, or this would be the last time he would greet the fans at Hilton with his signature fist-pump.

But I do know the Magic will live forever.

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