Experts say cold temps in Utah abnormal but not quite record-breaking

Posted at 5:25 PM, Jan 01, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-01 19:25:39-05

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah - Much of Utah woke up to sub-zero temperatures on New Year’s Day, and it was the coldest thermometer reading in two years at the Salt Lake City airport.

The National Weather Service said s a combination of clear skies and heavy snow already on the ground plummeted readings well below freezing.

“Its about 20 degrees below what we see on average this time of year,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Monica Trap Hagan. “Not quite record breaking, but definitely abnormally cold.”

The colder temperatures brought on concerns about frostbite and hypothermia, conditions ER physician Dr. Thomas Weed said are common this time of year.

“Especially because the most vulnerable are the really small babies and the elderly people,” said Dr. Weed. “And sometimes they can’t defend themselves against the environment, so they’ll get colder and colder until someone checks on them.”

Dr. Weed said the common signs of frostbite include discoloration of the skin, either red, or in more serious cases, yellow and grey. Symptoms of hypothermia include pale skin along with trouble walking and talking,

All of those symptoms are ones ski resort employees are told to be on the lookout for. Temperatures in the canyons can often be colder than those in the valley, and, with a wind chill, conditions can become even colder still.

Snowbird director of mountain activities John Collins said guests are urged to check conditions before they head out.

“A lot of times people will have problems with their extremities, with their hands, with their feet,” Collins said. “Most people know what they’re kind of getting into.”

The most obvious solution is for people to bundle up before they head outdoors, or to stay home if possible. But Weed says if temperatures dip much lower there could be issues with people getting hypothermia while inside their homes.

Luckily Trap Hagan said weather models appear to indicate that temperatures will rise in the coming week.