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Record-breaking, dangerous cold moving in; tips to stay safe

Updated: Tuesday, January 7 2014, 08:22 AM CST
Posted by: Lauren Gross

HARRISBURG -- Due to the frigid weather forecasted for our area, residents across the mid-state are urged to consider the possible consequences and take precautions.  

With wind chills -20 to -35, frost bite is possible in 30 minutes. Dress in layers of loose-fitting warm clothing. Wear a hat, because 40 percent of your body heat can be lost from your head. Cover your mouth to protect your lungs from extreme cold. Mittens, sung at the wrist, are better than gloves.

Frozen pipes could become a problem. Open cabinet doors under your kitchen sink and bath vanity. This will help keep your pipes warmer.

Dead car batteries can leave you stranded. Carry a charged cell phone for emergency calls.

Any power outage that occurs could leave people without heat. Don’t use gas ranges/ovens as a source of heat. People may improperly use secondary sources of heat; that increases the chances of carbon dioxide poisoning and fires.

Stay indoors, minimize travel. Check on the elderly and your neighbors. Bring pets inside.

Try to stay dry and out of the wind.

Frostbite occurs when skin and its underlying tissue are exposed to very cold temperatures and freezing conditions. Skin that appears waxy or hard and has a gray tone may have frostbite. The damaged skin may also itch or burn and may turn red in color as the affect area thaws.  

The first step to treating frostbite is to get out of the cold.  Get inside to a warm place as soon as possible. Once inside, remove any wet clothing. If you cannot get out of the cold, place your hands under your arms to warm them.  

Cover areas that can be most affected by frostbite (nose and ears) with a scarf and try not to walk if your feet may have frostbite. Frostbite is generally treated by gradually warming the skin. Seek the treatment of a medical professional as soon as possible if you think you may have frostbite. 

Stay hydrated: Dehydration is common during the winter months. Winter activities are just as strenuous as summer activities. We also tend to wear layers of warm clothing during the winter so our bodies work harder (by sweating) to cool us down. Dehydration also makes you an easy target for colds and flu.

Drink before, during and after exercise or outdoor activities. Water-based foods like soup, fruits, and vegetables are a great source of hydration and nutrients. Reduce the amount of sodium in your diet.

Make sure you have:

* Sufficient heating fuel. You may become isolated in your home and regular fuel sources may be cut off. Store a good supply of dry, seasoned wood for your fireplace or wood-burning stove.

* Adequate clothing and blankets to keep you warm.

* A family communications plan. Your family may not be together when disaster strikes, so it is important to know how you will contact one another, how you will get back together and what you will do in case of an emergency.
Listen to a NOAA Weather Radio or other local news channels for critical information from the National Weather Service (NWS). Be alert to changing weather conditions. Minimize travel. If travel is necessary, keep a disaster supplies kit in your vehicle.

Bring pets/companion animals inside during winter weather. Move other animals or livestock to sheltered areas with non-frozen drinking water.

During Extreme Cold:
* Keep dry. Change wet clothing frequently to prevent a loss of body heat. Wet clothing loses all of its insulating value and transmits heat rapidly.

* Watch for signs of frostbite. These include loss of feeling and white or pale appearance in extremities such as fingers, toes, ear lobes, and the tip of the nose. If symptoms are detected, get medical help immediately.

* Watch for signs of hypothermia. These include uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness, and apparent exhaustion. If symptoms of hypothermia are detected, get the victim to a warm location, remove wet clothing, warm the center of the body first and give warm, non-alcoholic beverages if the victim is conscious. Get medical help as soon as possible.

* Let someone know your destination, your route, and when you expect to arrive. If your car gets stuck along the way, help can be sent along your predetermined route.

* If the pipes freeze, remove any insulation or layers of newspapers and wrap pipes in rags. Completely open all faucets and pour hot water over the pipes, starting where they were most exposed to the cold (or where the cold was most likely to penetrate).

* Maintain ventilation when using kerosene heaters to avoid build-up of toxic fumes. Refuel kerosene heaters outside and keep them at least three feet from flammable objects

* Conserve fuel, if necessary, by keeping your residence cooler than normal. Temporarily close off heat to some rooms.

* If you will be going away during cold weather, leave the heat on in your home, set to a temperature no lower than 55ºF

For more information: 

National Weather Service
American Red Cross
Record-breaking, dangerous cold moving in; tips to stay safe

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