SOUTH BEND — In addition to tons of snow, the blizzard that swept through the area this week left in its wake a blanket of cold arctic air stretching across much of the Midwest.
According to National Weather Service Meteorologist Mark Steinwedel, the temperature in South Bend hit a frigid 3 degrees above zero Thursday morning before warming up to about 13 degrees later in the afternoon.
As for today, the high temperature should climb to about 20 degrees from a low of zero, Steinwedel said, but with a wind-chill factor of between 5 and 10 degrees above zero.
"So it will be a little bit warmer" he said, "and then moderate from there ... until we gradually warm up to more normal temperatures."
The current cold is the result of arctic air from Canada hitching a ride on the backside of the blizzard, Steinwedel said, plus cold air on the ground from the substantial amount of accumulated snow in the area.
Despite record amounts of snow this season, the temperature had yet to drop below zero in South Bend as of Thursday, Steinwedel said, with the low being 2 degrees above zero on Dec. 15.
The high temperature Saturday is expected to be about 20 degrees, followed by 35 degrees Sunday ahead of another cold snap early next week.
According to Dr. Ted Neumann with the Family Medicine Center, a division of Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center, the current cold poses a real risk to anyone exposed to the elements for an extended period of time.
At close to zero degrees, exposed skin can become frostbitten within minutes, he said, with extremities such as the nose, ears, fingers and toes most vulnerable because of their distance from the body’s core.
Symptoms of frostbite, Neumann said, include numbness, loss of sensitivity to touch, and pain and tingling, and signs include a change in skin color around the affected area.
People who must go outside today should dress warmly, with as little skin exposed as possible, Neumann said, and prepare for the worst.
In the event of frostbite, "get out of the cold and re-warm the area as soon as you can," he said. Use warm water, and pay close attention not to rub the affected area, which could cause further damage.
Finally, if pain in the affected area persists, or if blistering occurs, seek medical attention immediately.