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How cold is it in NH? Not as cold as in Oymyakon, Russia

Union Leader Correspondent

January 23. 2013 10:58PM
Brian Collins fills up a truck at Buxton Oil's Epping facility Wednesday afternoon after a long, cold day of deliveries. (JASON SCHREIBER PHOTO)

It may not feel like Oymyakon, Russia - the coldest inhabited place on Earth where January temperatures average -58 degrees - but it's still pretty chilly in New Hampshire.

It was so frigid Wednesday that Wildcat Mountain in Pinkham Notch closed and will remain shut down today as bitter cold and wind chills well below zero created unsafe conditions for skiers and workers. Wildcat plans to reopen Friday.

It was also too cold for many New Hampshire students to head outside for recess.

"That wind will bite you in the face," Buxton Oil delivery driver Brian Collins said with his hood pulled over his head as he filled up his truck at the company's Epping facility Wednesday afternoon.

Wind chill advisories and warnings were posted across much of the state as a combination of winds and sub-zero temperatures were expected to make it feel like the negative teens in southern areas to -40 and even colder this morning in the North Country. Highs today and Friday are forecast to range from the single digits north to the low- to mid-teens south.

Concord hit a high of 9 degrees Wednesday. That's the coldest since Jan. 24, 2011, when the mercury made it to 6 degrees, according to Mike Cempa, meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Gray, Maine.

That 9 degrees doesn't sound so bad when you consider conditions on the summit of Mount Washington.

Wind chill values Wednesday were calculated at -87 degrees, with a high of -28 and a low of -35, according to Mike Carmon, a meteorologist at the Mount Washington Observatory.

"When temperatures are this cold, along with such high winds, it's almost like stepping out the door and into a pool of water," Carmon said. "The frigid air completely engulfs you, and if you don't have full protection from the elements, your skin will literally freeze in a matter of minutes."?Students at Epping Elementary were among those kept inside Wednesday. Principal Mark Vallone said students are usually allowed outside for recess when it's in the 20s or even in the upper teens with no wind, but Wednesday was too cold.

"We want to make sure there's no wind chill because the kids can get frostbite pretty quickly. We love to get the kids out in the winter for fresh air, but we really have to protect against the wind chill," he said.

Michelle Gaydos, principal of Pollard Elementary School in Plaistow, said students there weren't allowed outside for recess either. However, if they're kept in for more than a couple of days, she said the students are usually taken outside for a quick walk around the school.

"Five minutes isn't going to (hurt) anybody as long as they're dressed up," Gaydos said.

For students who aren't dressed for the weather, Gaydos said the school has a collection of new hats and mittens donated each year.

"We make sure they do have something when they go out," she said.

Sanborn Regional School District in Kingston uses 20 degrees as a cut-off point for keeping the students in, Superintendent Brian Blake said. The decision is based on the actual temperature and what it really feels like outside when there's wind.

Meanwhile, Jim Van Dongen, spokesman for the state's Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, said he wasn't expecting any serious problems related to the quick cold shot.

He urged residents who may be in need of some assistance with heating costs or other services to call 211, an initiative of the United Ways of New Hampshire in partnership with Public Service Company of New Hampshire.

"With a situation like this, duration is everything," Van Dongen said. "There are no real power outages and that really is key because then people start having problems."

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