Precautions urged in the extreme cold

The National Weather Service is warning of extremely cold temperatures for much of this week.  Wind chills will be below zero at times and could be colder than 20 degrees below zero Wednesday night into Thursday. Those temperatures have the potential to pose a danger to health and property, police report.

Some steps to take to keep yourself, your family, your pets, and any elderly or homebound neighbors safe during cold weather include: monitoring weather reports; checking with elderly or disabled relatives, neighbors, and friends to ensure their safety; minimizing outside activities for people and pets; and dressing in several layers of loose-fitting, lightweight clothing, rather than a single layer of heavy clothing. Experts recommend outer garments be tightly woven and water repellent. Wear a hat, mittens and sturdy waterproof boots, protecting your extremities. Cover your mouth with a scarf to protect your lungs, they say.

Excessive exposure can lead to frostbite, which is damaging to body tissue that is frozen.  Frostbite causes a loss of feeling and a pale appearance in extremities, such as fingers, toes, ear lobes or the tip of the nose. If symptoms are detected, seek medical help immediately.  Slowly warm the affected areas as you await medical assistance.

Hypothermia can occur in extreme cases. The warning signs are uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness and apparent exhaustion.  If the person’s temperature drops below 95 degrees, seek immediate medical care.  If medical assistance is not available, slowly warm up the person, body core first, wrapping them in a blanket or using your own body heat. Do not warm the extremities first, for this drives the cold blood towards the heart and can lead to heart failure.  Do not give the person alcohol, coffee, tea or any hot food or beverage. Warm liquids are best.

Ensure you have sufficient heating fuel, as well as emergency heating equipment in case you lose electricity.  If you need information on heating assistance or if you lose power or heat and need a safe place to stay call 2-1-1.

Test smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) detectors, and change their batteries regularly.  Malfunctioning heating equipment can produce harmful levels of CO, including: fuel-fired furnaces or boilers (nonelectric), space heaters with pilot lights or open flames (for example kerosene heaters, wood stoves, or fireplaces), and gas stoves or ovens – especially those with pilot lights.  Cars, snowmobiles, trucks, and other vehicles run in a garage can also be sources of CO poisoning, which can be deadly.  Never operate a vehicle or generator indoors; they should only be run be outside and away from the home so CO cannot vent inside living areas.

If you lose power or heat, try to keep pipes from freezing.  Leave cabinet doors open to allow as much heat as possible to reach pipes. Wrap them in insulation or layers of newspapers, covering the newspapers with plastic to keep out moisture. Allow a trickle of warm water (if available) to run from a faucet that is farthest from your water meter or a faucet that has frozen in the past.  This will keep the water moving so it cannot freeze. Shut off your water if a pipe bursts.

Make sure your car is properly winterized. Keep the gas tank at least half-full. Carry a winter emergency car kit in the trunk including blankets, extra clothing, flashlight with spare batteries, a can and waterproof matches (to melt snow for drinking water), non-perishable foods, windshields scraper and brush, shovel, sand, towrope, and jumper cables.

Photo by Paul Holmes

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