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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • 'Polar vortex' a result of Arctic air mass

  • Schools canceled classes and other events were called off Monday as a cold air mass — a "polar vortex," as called by some — brought extremely low temperatures to the area.
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    • Short-term outlook:
      Despite Monday's extremely low temperatures and wind chills, a warmup is expected.

      Tom Kines, a meteorologist for AccuWeather.com, said high temperatures for today are expect...
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      Short-term outlook:
      Despite Monday's extremely low temperatures and wind chills, a warmup is expected.
      Tom Kines, a meteorologist for AccuWeather.com, said high temperatures for today are expected to be around 30 degrees. Later this week, high temperatures may reach into the 40s, he said.
  • Schools canceled classes and other events were called off Monday as a cold air mass — a "polar vortex," as called by some — brought extremely low temperatures to the area.
    AccuWeather.com meteorologist Tom Kines said the temperature plunge was the result of a cold air mass from the Arctic moving south into the U.S.
    "This is true Arctic air," he said.
    Kines said the cold air mass happens from time to time, but temperatures this time were colder than usual.
    He said this week's "polar vortex" rivals one from January 1994.
    Kines said temperatures in the Leavenworth area dropped to around 11 degrees below early Monday morning with wind chills around 30 below. Temperatures warmed above zero during the day, but were expected to drop below zero during the night.
    Leavenworth County remains in a wind chill advisory until 9 a.m. today, according to the National Weather Service.
    It's expected to be warmer today, with temperatures reaching around 30 degrees, Kines said.
    Low temperatures and wind chills followed a winter storm that brought an additional two to three inches of snow this weekend to the Leavenworth area, Kines said.
    With the extremely cold temperatures and low wind chills, people could be at risk of hypothermia and frostbite.
    "You need to dress in layers," said Amy Tollefson, public information officer for the Leavenworth County Health Department.
    She said outdoor attire should include hats and gloves, and people should have their faces covered if they're going to be outside for extended periods.
    Warning signs for hypothermia in infants and other children are bright red, cold skin and very low energy. For adults, the warning signs are shivering, exhaustion, memory loss and confusion.
    If people are showing symptoms, they need to go to a warm room or shelter, Tollefson said.
    She suggested a community center or library can be utilized as a warming center.
    Tollefson said frostbite can result in white or grayish yellow skin. Frostbite also can result in skin feeling firm or waxy as well as numbness.
    The area of skin affected by frostbite can be immersed in warm water, but not hot water, Tollefson said.
    She said Leavenworth County Health Department officials had not heard or seen of any cases of hypothermia or frostbite Monday.
    Monday was scheduled to be the first day back for local students following winter break.
    Kevin Gullett, chief financial officer for Leavenworth public schools, said temperatures and the wind chill were the reasons for canceling school Monday.
    He said the Monday morning forecast predicted wind chills around 25 degrees below. He said classes typically are canceled once wind chills reach 15 below.
    Page 2 of 2 - Despite the weekend's snow storm, roads were passable and not a factor in the decision to call off school Monday, Gullett said.
    He said it has been several years since Leavenworth public schools canceled classes solely because of low temperatures and wind chills.
    "It's kind of unusual," he said.
    Gullett said Monday there was chance classes would be canceled again today because the wind chill advisory would still be in effect as children head out to school.
    While no decision had been made by Monday afternoon, Easton Superintendent Chuck Coblentz said students in his district might not have classes again today.
    He said it looked like this morning still would be very cold with severe wind chills.
    Officials with the Leavenworth Police Department and Leavenworth County Sheriff's Office reported few traffic incidents this weekend resulting from snowy conditions.
    Leavenworth County Undersheriff Jim Sherley said some "slide off" crashes were reported.
    But, Sherley said he believes bad weather had been forecast well in advance and the plummeting temperatures kept many people at home.

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