Arctic Blast: Are You Prepared? Cold Weather Safety Tips

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If you read YOURWEATHERBLOG yesterday, you’re already aware of the potential for an Arctic blast of cold air across most of the U.S. next week. Long-range models have been indicating this for several days, but thankfully today the airmass doesn’t look quite as cold as it did yesterday due to a subtle change in the upper air wind patterns. By the middle portion of next week, Arctic air will surge southward across the Southern Plains, Texas and Mississippi River Valley with the potential for a hard freeze just inland from the coast (low to mid 20s) during the morning hours. The immediate coast from Texas to Louisiana could still fall to 30-32ºF, but that’s still uncertain. Daytime highs also don’t look quite as cold as they did with yesterday’s model runs and should reach the 30s and 40s over most of the Deep South rather than 20s and 30s. Even with this subtle change from yesterday, well below-average temperatures are still expected across most of the Lower 48.

Freeze threat next week over the Deep South. Image: ImpactWeather

Precipitation is expected to fall in the form of accumulating snow (white) on the leading edge of the Arctic air (blue) across the Rockies and Plains. A surface low will develop later in the forecast period bringing snow across the Great Lakes, Ohio Valley, Mid-Atlantic and North. The exact amount of snow and where the heaviest snow will fall is still uncertain. Image: ImpactWeather

With the threat for such a dramatic change in temperatures across most of the U.S. around January 9th or 10th, it’s important to plan in advance for these types of situations. Whether you’re indoors or outside, extremely cold temperatures can cause serious or life-threatening health problems (infants and elderly are especially at risk). Infants less than a year old should never sleep in a cold room since their body loses heat quicker than an adult. Make sure you dress them warmly and maintain a warm indoor temperature at all times, so avoid opening windows and outside doors even briefly.

Planning in advance is the best way to handle extremely cold weather and winter storms so stock up at the stores before everyone makes a mad dash. Have plenty of non-perishable food items on hand because if the power goes out you’ll be unable to cook a warm meal unless you have a gas stove. Stock up on bread, crackers, canned foods, dried fruits and cereal. Eat well-balanced meals and don’t drink alcoholic or caffeinated beverages because they will cause your body to lose heat more rapidly. Store up as much water as you can in case your pipes freeze (for tips on how to protect your pipes during freezing weather click here). You can either fill up jugs of water or purchase bottles of water, but have at least 5 gallons per person in your household. Also, if you take any medications make sure you’re not running low on your prescriptions.

People often wait until the last minute to stock up on supplies. Photo: lehighvalleylive.com

Here’s a good emergency supply list.

  • Batteries (different sizes for flashlights, radios, etc.)
  • Blankets
  • Matches/lighter
  • First aid kit
  • Flashlight
  • Radio (i.e. NOAA Weather Radio)
  • Battery-powered clock or watch
  • Non-electric can opener
  • Wear several layers of clothes to keep warm (thermals, hat, scarf, gloves, etc.)
  • Other special items you may need (i.e. medications, baby food, pet food, etc.)
  • Firewood (if you have a fireplace for an alternate way to heat)**
  • Kerosene (for a kerosene heater)**

**If you are using a heat source such as a fireplace or kerosene heater, make sure there’s nothing flammable around the fireplace or heater and that there’s proper ventilation. Also—summer or winter—never, ever run a gas-or diesel-powered generator in an enclosed space. Carbon monoxide poisoning needlessly claims dozens of lives in the U.S. each year.

The time is now to protect your home from the extremely cold weather that is anticipated by early next week across the Rockies and Northern Plains which will spread southward around midweek across the Southern Plains, Texas, Mississippi River Valley and into the Midwest. When freezing weather’s expected, it’s always a good idea to think of additional things you can do to heat your home. Probably the most common would be to use a wood stove or fireplace, but make sure you have enough wood stored up. Also, it’s a good idea to have your chimney inspected each year and on a regular basis check your batteries in both your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.  It’s imperative not only to stay warm, but also to be safe. Last but not least, make sure your pets have a warm place to go when it’s cold outside. Click here for Winter Pet Safety Tips.

This map identifies the aerial extent of next weeks winter weather threats. Image: ImpactWeather

Both humans and pets can suffer from hypothermia, which is a condition where the core body temperature drops below what’s required for normal metabolism and body functions (95ºF). A low body temperature affects the brain making it hard for the victim to think clearly or move well. Most victims are elderly, babies or people who remain outdoors for long periods of time. Various warning signs of hypothermia are: drowsiness, memory loss, slurred speech, confusion, exhaustion, shivering, etc. Frostbite is also a medical condition that can occur in which the skin and other tissues are damaged due to extreme cold. Factors contributing to frostbite include extreme cold, inadequate clothing, wet clothes, wind chill, and poor circulation. The following signs may indicate frostbite: a white or grayish-yellow skin area, numbness, and/or skin that feels unusually firm or waxy.

Frostbitten hands. Photo: Wikipedia

It’s wintertime after all so lets all be prepared for whatever Mother Nature throws our way the next couple of months! Be sure and check out this afternoon’s video update on the “Arctic Outbreak” expected next week. Also, don’t forget to register for tomorrow’s (Thursday, December 6) Winter Weather Outlook Monthly Update beginning at 10:30am central time. Click here to register.

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