National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce

Extremely cold air comes every winter into at least part of the country and affects millions of people across the United States. The arctic air can be dangerous. Combined with brisk winds, dangerously cold wind chill values can result. People exposed to extreme cold are susceptible to frostbite and can succumb to hypothermia in a matter of minutes. Areas most prone to frostbite are uncovered skin and the extremities, such as hands and feet. Hypothermia occurs when the body loses heat faster than it can produce it.

Cold weather can also affect crops. In late spring or early fall, cold air outbreaks can damage or kill produce for farmers, as well as residential plants and flowers. A freeze occurs when the temperature drops below 32°F. Freezes and their effects are significant during the growing season. Frost develops on clear, calm nights and can occur when the air temperature is in the mid-30s. Each plant species has a different tolerance to cold temperatures. You may also want to check out our winter safety site for snow and more cold season hazards information.

If you or someone you know has been a victim of extreme cold, please share your story so we can help prevent others from becoming a victim. When you write, please state that the NWS has permission to use your story, and let us know the town and state you were in and when the event took place. Read our real-life stories from extreme cold survivors.