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January 20. 2014 10:16PM

Cold snap: Even the cows will stay inside

GRAY, Maine — Though some New Englanders aren't surprised when it gets wicked cold in January, others find themselves rushing to make sure they can keep warm when sub-zero temperatures descend.

Unlike the ominous "polar vortex" responsible for the last round of super-cold weather, James Brown, a hydrometeorological technician for the National Weather Service in Gray, Maine, said this week's temperatures are the result of cold air moving southeast from the north — the way it usually does in the winter.

"I don't think people really have a great memory of stuff like this. I know I don't," he said. "But I can look at the data and see that temperatures like this are not abnormal."

Highs in the teens are predicted for the southern part of the state until Saturday, with lows dropping into the single digits or below zero. Up north, low temperatures are expected to be well below zero. Wind is going to be a major factor this week, said Brown, especially in the mountains where wind chills may hit 20-below.

Another cold snap with similar temperatures will move in again Sunday.

According to the National Weather Service, there will be snow showers today, with the Seacoast and southern region possibly seeing a bit more snow tonight into Wednesday.

Staying in

With wind chill temperatures falling below zero, humans and animals are at risk for hypothermia and frost bite.

Dressing in layers and exposing as little skin to the cold as possible, or simply staying indoors, are the best protection.

Chris Bunten of the Bunten Farm in Orford said she protects her herd of Devon dairy cows by keeping them in the barn and ensuring temperatures there don't fall below freezing.

Though her breed of cows is better adapted to the cold than the black and white Holsteins that dot the landscape in New Hampshire, they're better off in the barn, especially when there's ice on the ground.

"They love being outside, but if we let them out of the barn when it's icy and cold, it's like running on high heels," she said. "They get all excited and can hurt themselves."

Fueling up

The drivers for Palmer Gas/Ermer Oil Company in Atkinson don't have the luxury of staying in, general manager Joe Trefethen said.

"With the cold, the drivers have to worry about their fingers and toes," said Trefethen. And demand for oil and gas increases when people see the news about cold weather. Suppliers of wood pellets and other alternative fuel sources see a jump in demand as well.

John Renaud, owner of Bedford Biofuels, said his customers want to ensure they have enough wood pellets or blocks to keep warm when the mercury dips really low.

"The phone has been ringing non-stop," he said Monday. "People just don't want to run out during a cold snap. It's good for business, but it makes for cold deliveries."

At Woodman's Forge and Fireplace in East Wakefield, calls for service are flooding in.

"People who have some problem with their stove suddenly realize they better get it fixed," said store manager Dave Miller. "We sell a lot of parts when it gets like this."

nfoster@newstote.com


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