Cold weather causing broken bones on and off the slopes
January 15, 2007
Bone-chilling temperatures in the regions recent cold snap are, in fact, causing some broken bones.Emergency room staff at Tahoe Forest Hospital saw a number of ice-related injuries over the weekend, many of which were painful broken bones and some cases of frostbite, said Dr. Michael MacQuarrie, director of emergency services at Tahoe Forest Hospital.Just like the banana peel from the cartoons, MacQuarrie said, people are slipping and falling due to icy conditions. Over the weekend MacQuarrie treated people with broken ankles, hips, wrists and head injuries.Three people were admitted into the emergency room on Sunday with fractured hips, which will likely require surgery, MacQuarrie said. And these are healthy, active people, he said.With below-freezing temperatures creating icy conditions on the ski slopes, taking a fall can be much more dangerous, MacQuarrie said. Now we see broken shoulders, dislocated shoulders, and head injuries and they are a lot worse, MacQuarrie said.Frostbite is also a health concern due to the extreme cold. Frostbite can occur when people arent dressed appropriately, MacQuarrie said. The condition is initially painless as most people experience numbness before the affected area warms up, then people have pain. Frostbite can be prevented by layering clothing, wearing a hat, and making sure shoes are not too tight to allow for adequate blood circulation, MacQuarrie said. The chilly weather is expected to continue through the weekend with highs in the 20s and mid-30s and lows between 5 to 10 degrees, said Rebecca Cripe, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Reno.An extremely strong high-pressure system circling in from Alaska is making it a lot colder than normal, Cripe said, with temperatures 10 to 15 degrees below average this time of year.Despite negative effects elsewhere, the cold spell has been great for snow conditions at Northstar-at-Tahoe and Squaw Valley USA, according to staff. Northstar didnt have any reports of ice-related injuries over the weekend, said Mindi Befu, director of marketing for Sierra-at-Tahoe. And the ski resort has been taking advantage of the cold weather, firing up the snow-making machines, she said. Skiers and snowboarders are taking more time inside to warm up before heading back out, said Christine Horvath, director of marketing for Squaw Valley. But when theyre out there, theyre experiencing great conditions, she said.
The wind chill factor can make the current air temperature feel much colder outside, said Rebecca Cripe, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Reno. When the wind blows it evaporates moisture from a persons skin, causing him or her to feel much colder. For example, on the morning of Friday, Jan. 12, the temperature was 1 below zero in Truckee with wind gusts of 3 mph, creating a wind chill factor of 13 below zero, Cripe said.