CHICAGO (CBS) — What does 50 below feel like?
When the National Weather Service warned not to talk or breathe deeply in these historically cold temperatures, they weren’t kidding.
Thirty seconds on the edge of Lake Michigan–which was spewing steam from its relatively warm water into the frigid air–was enough to make one physically ill.
A burning sensation on skin began within 10 or 15 seconds as the wind gusts cut into layers of clothing.
Breathing became somewhat difficult, slight nausea sets in and one becomes slightly disoriented.
Officially, the temperature at O’Hare was 23 below zero, a record for the date and the fifth coldest ever for Chicago. It hasn’t been this cold here in 35 years. The record is 27 below, set in 1985.
The wind chills of 50 below zero were also among the highest recorded for the city.
Frostbite can take effect in only a matter of minutes, according to Dr. Edidiong Kaminska, a dermatologist at Northwestern Medicine. Extremities such as fingers, toes, the nose and ears are at the highest risk for frostbite, but any area of exposed skin can be affected.
Skin freezes when the body’s survival mechanisms kick in to protect the body’s vital organs.
“Frozen skin can cause an inflammatory cascade in the body,” Dr. Kaminska said. “The tissue freezes, and while it’s thawing out, inflammation starts to spread.”
So, heed the warnings and avoid going outside today and Thursday.