Stay safe and stay warm

Published 6:45 pm Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The snow crunching underfoot and causing your car to slip and slide on your way out of the neighborhood this morning might be the least of your concerns this week.

Suffolk is set to experience its lowest temperatures in decades Wednesday night and Thursday morning, and the dangers they pose could make slippery roads pale in comparison.

National Weather Service meteorologists are predicting that temperatures in Suffolk will fall to near zero during the overnight hours Wednesday and Thursday. Some sources are predicting they’ll go below zero. In any case, expected light winds will drop the wind chill to well below zero.

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Most folks in this area aren’t used to that sort of cold. Neither are their animals. It’s important to take actions now to ensure that both man and beast survive the next couple of nights unharmed.

The American Red Cross offers the following tips to help you stay safe during extremely cold weather:

  • Wear layers of clothing to stay warm, along with a hat, mittens and waterproof, insulated boots.
  • Avoid frozen pipes — run water, even at a trickle, to help prevent them from freezing.
  • Be extremely careful if you have to shovel snow. Work slowly, take frequent breaks and stay hydrated.
  • Watch for hypothermia and frostbite. Hypothermia symptoms include confusion, dizziness, exhaustion and severe shivering. Frostbite symptoms include numbness, flushed gray, white, blue or yellow skin discoloration, numbness, or waxy feeling skin.
  • Don’t forget your pets — bring them indoors. If they can’t come inside, make sure they have enough shelter to keep them warm and that they can get to unfrozen water.
  • Check on your neighbors, especially elderly people living alone, people with disabilities and children.
  • Avoid driving on snow-covered roads if possible. If travel is necessary, keep a disaster supplies kit in your vehicle.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers additional advice:

  • Use fireplaces, wood stoves or other combustion heaters only if they are properly vented to the outside and do not leak flue gas into the indoor air space.
  • Keep as much heat as possible inside your home.
  • Check the temperature in your home often.
  • Eat well-balanced meals to help you stay warmer.
  • Never use a charcoal or gas grill indoors — the fumes are deadly.
  • Never use a generator inside the house, in the basement, in the garage, or near a window.
  • Infants less than one year old should never sleep in a cold room, because infants lose body heat more easily than adults.

Meteorologists say we seem to be “stuck” in our current weather pattern. Spring will surely come along, but winter has still got a hold on us in the meantime. Be smart, stay warm and stay safe.