Thursday, January 15, 2009

Inauguration Forecast: Bright and Cold

Five days out from President-elect Barack Obama’s January 20 Inauguration, the National Weather Service can now predict Tuesday’s weather with reasonable probability. NOAA anticipates temperature highs to hover around freezing over the weekend, with a thirty percent chance of snow Saturday and Sunday. While that may blanket the city with an inch or two of white, Inauguration Day is likely to be cold and clear. At night, temperatures will drop to the low twenties, so ball attendees should remember to bring their overcoats and gloves.

(Map courtesy of the National Weather Service)

Washington DC was built in a swamp, so humidity can be high even on cold days. This can create the sensation that temperatures are colder than they actually are. Like being immersed in water, DC cold has a habit of sucking the warmth out of you even if you happen to be insulated.

Visitors to inaugural events over the weekend have some measure of control over how long they are exposed to the weather, but on Inauguration Day, attendees will be outside for most of the day. With extreme congestion on roads and Metro on Inauguration Day, particularly after the ceremonies conclude, visitors should be prepared to spend a considerable amount of time exposed to the elements.

Obamapalooza has put together a brief low-temperatures survival guide. Follow these five simple rules and you should be fine in just about any winter weather.

1. Wear layers. With a slight breeze and humidity, low temperatures can seep through a heavy winter coat. Heat escapes from the openings at the bottom, the neck and the sleeves. Wear a long sleeved shirt with tight fitting wrists and tuck it in. Add a sweater and a scarf and then your winter coat. If you get too warm, you can always take something off. If you get too cold, there’s nothing you can do.

2. Wear a hat. Heat goes up. Even if you’re bundled up like the Michelin Man, without a hat, you’ll be miserable in minutes. Skip the cute cotton varieties. Of all the things in your Obamapalooza wardrobe, your hat is the most important. Opt for something thick and water-resistant, like wool, and make sure it’s long enough to cover your ears.

3. Wear thick-soled footwear and thick wool socks. After prolonged exposure to cold ground, like standing beside Pennsylvania Avenue from 7 AM to 3 PM, the chill will seep through the rubber soles of your footwear. Opt for winter boots with thick soles and insulate those from your feet with thick wool socks. You don’t want to get cold feet.

4. Bring a scarf. Scarves are more versatile than humanities majors and French women may let on. Not only will it stop up the gap at your throat where heat pours out of your coat and sweater, it can double as a hat, shield your face from the cold, and help insulate cold hands.

5. Don’t forget the gloves. If you plan on holding anything, whether a thermos or a flag, bring gloves. With less deep tissue around the fingers, hands get cold fast and take a long time to heat up again.

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