Hypothermia Risk for Turkish Earthquake Victims

By By Alex Sosnowski, expert senior meteorologist.
October 28, 2011, 5:27:15 AM EDT

Rain, snow and cold weather are in store for search, rescue and recovery operations in the earthquake-ravaged Van, Turkey area into the weekend.

Hypothermia is an added risk to those trapped in debris or left homeless following the 7.2-magnitude quake.

As anticipated, a large storm has formed and stalled over the region, bringing chilly, unsettled weather. The storm is expected to break up slowly Sunday into Tuesday.

Reports from early this week indicated that from hundreds to thousands of people remained buried under collapsed buildings and other structures in the Lake Van region of Turkey.

Sources say at least 25 survivors were pulled from rubble during the day Monday. Well over 100 people have been pulled from the rubble alive to date. Tuesday, a two-week-old baby was rescued.

The AccuWeather.com Forecast calls for rounds of rain in the Van metro area and wet snow or a mixture of rain and wet snow for the elevations overlooking the city.

Van is the largest city in the region hit by the earthquake and is home to over 370,000 people. Thousands of more people live outside the city.

Similar in elevation to Denver, Colo., the city of Van is approximately 5,450 feet (1,660 m) above sea level. However, while Denver has open plains to the east, Van is surrounded by mountains, with some ridges topping 10,000 feet (3,050 m).

In the Van metro area, temperatures will dip as low as the 30s (1 to 3 C) at night, and may spend a large part of the day in the 40s (4 to 8 C) during the day. Fortunately, winds are expected to be light much of the time in the Lake Van Basin.


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According to World Weather Expert Meteorologist Jim Andrews, "There are dozens of smaller towns and villages in the mountains surrounding Van, including homes in remote areas at higher elevations that will receive accumulating wet snow into the weekend."

In the outlying higher elevations, temperatures will dip into the 20s (-1 to -4 C) at night, and may only rise to a few degrees above freezing (1 to 4 C) during the day. Winds at the higher elevations will result in lower AccuWeather.com RealFeel® temperatures by several degrees.

"Wet snow will mix down to the Van metro area into Saturday with the chilly storm," Andrews said.

According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), some of the population in the region resides in structures that are vulnerable to earthquakes of the magnitude that struck Sunday.


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According to the USGS, over 370,000 of the people in the region were exposed to violent shaking (red ring) and another 67,000 were exposed to severe shaking (orange ring) during the earthquake.

Ongoing aftershocks for days will continue to pose a risk to those remaining in weakened structures and others attempting rescue.

The Lake Van area of Turkey is considered a semiarid, high-altitude region.

From late fall to early spring is considered the wet season, with November being the wettest month of the year.

"The area has experienced immobilizing snowstorms, especially in places that overlook the bowl-shaped high basin of Lake Van," Andrews added.

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