Winter doesn’t officially arrive until Wednesday, but New Jerseyans are already shivering in their boots, facing brutally cold conditions for the next couple of days.

According to Mitchell Gaines, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Mount Holly, the entire region will be well below normal temperature wise on Thursday and Friday, not climbing out of the 20s. But what’s really concerning is “we’re looking at wind gusts of at least 20 mph, probably some gusts up to 30 mph, so it’ll feel like single digits and teens" on Thursday and "feel like the temperatures are well below zero" Thursday evening.

He stressed in these kinds of conditions, it’s important to dress in multiple layers.

Dave Robinson, state climatologist at Rutgers University, said you definitely want to reduce your exposure to the cold, which means “face masks for the kids, hats and gloves for everyone. If you’re outside for any period of time, keep your skin covered up."

“With temperatures staying below freezing, strong winds that bring the wind chill down below zero, this is dangerous. If you’re caught outside unprepared for any length of time, you can get into trouble in terms of potential frostbite, certainly hypothermia.”

Robinson also stressed you don’t want to engage in any kind of silly, goofy or downright stupid behavior, including running outside in a tee shirt or trying to lick a lamppost on a dare.

“You can get into trouble pretty quickly with conditions like this, so that’s a real foolhardy move doing anything to tempt trouble."

He also pointed out when wind-chill temperatures drop, water will freeze faster because it lowers the temperature of the vessel that’s holding the water.

Gaines added for the next few days, “you want to make sure pets aren’t outside for an extended period of time, and make sure your faucets are kept dripping tonight so the pipes don’t freeze up.”

So when do we get out of the deep freeze?

Gaines said the winds will decrease on Friday, so even though temperatures will stay in the 20s, it will feel more comfortable outside. A storm system will bring some snow and frozen precipitation to the area on Saturday, but a changeover to rain will take place during the day on Saturday and temps will be in the 50s by Sunday.

Several New Jersey counties are opening warming centers for the next couple of days. Information is available by logging on to your county website.

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