Stay safe in cold and snow

Published 9:33 pm Thursday, February 11, 2016

As you read this column, there’s probably snow falling outside. The prediction for Friday increased sharply in less than 24 hours earlier this week, from just a tenth of an inch to 1 to 3 inches. Still not that much, overall, but enough to send most 757 natives into a tizzy.

Who knows how much snow we’ll get? The only thing forecasters know for certain is that it will be cold.

There’s a winter weather advisory in effect Friday, and it will be bone-chillingly cold. Saturday, Sunday and Monday won’t be much better, if at all. When the low temperature ends in “teen,” that’s never good news. You’re better off just staying inside.

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But while you’re at it, make sure you take care of others. Call your neighbors and friends to make sure they’re staying warm. Invite them over if their heat is broken. If you’re invited over because your heat is broken, take chocolate. And, for goodness’ sake, bring your pets inside. They are living creatures, not lawn ornaments.

On Thursday morning, the telltale white stripes had appeared on some of Suffolk’s roads, indicating the city already had pre-treated the highways with a brine mixture that helps keep the roads safe and passable during a winter event. Even so, watch out for that ice and snow, and stay off the roads unless you absolutely have to be. Not that you’d want to be.

You should also drip your pipes this weekend. It might seem like a waste of water, but it could save you from a very expensive visit from your friendly neighborhood plumber. A burst pipe is not fun, for you or for your wallet.

But don’t take my word for it. Some reputable organizations, like the American Red Cross and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have offered all of this advice every winter since time began. Well, OK, not quite that long.

Here’s some of their other cold-weather tips to keep you safe:

  • Wear layers of clothing to stay warm, along with a hat, mittens and waterproof, insulated boots.
  • 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.
  • 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 should never sleep in a cold room, because infants lose body heat more easily than adults.