Be Prepared for the Cold: Dress Appropriately, Check Pipes, Take Care of Animals

Subzero low temperatures predicted beginning Saturday


When tow truck driver Jeff Senica of Senica Interstate Towing is called out to retrieve a vehicle this weekend from a rural location, there will be nowhere to hide from the below-zero temperatures.

He’ll have to brave them. That comes with the job.

Over the years, however, he’s developed a strategy for staying warm while working in the frigid cold.

“Everybody knows you wear lots of layers,” said Senica, who works at the La Salle-based towing company.

With low temperatures predicted to fall below zero and wind chills as low as -20 degrees beginning Saturday and into next week, Senica will be ready.

He starts with a base of insulated underwear, wearing regular jeans and a sweatshirt over them, as well as a thick pair of socks.

“You have to keep them dry,” he warned.

Senica also wears a gaiter face mask around his neck to keep his face from being exposed to the elements. Experts advise covering your head – as much as 50% of body heat is lost through the head. Experts also advise covering your mouth with a scarf to protect the lungs from directly inhaling extremely cold air.

Although they are expensive items, insulated Carhartt overalls and a pair of Muck waterproof boots are absolute necessities and worth every penny, he said.

“Those boots will keep you protected up to 30-below,” he said.

He also has one more trick. He buys hand warmers and puts them inside a pair of gloves to keep his finger tips from getting cold. Experts advise wearing mittens because the fingers can stick together and warm themselves.

“I’d like to wear mittens, but I can’t work in them,” Senica said.

It’s important not to wear so many layers such that one sweats, as moisture can cool the body down and expose it to the elements.

The Illinois Department of Public Health warns against frostbite.

With these extreme temperatures and dangerous wind chills, the Illinois Department of Public Health said frostbite could set in on exposed skin in as little as 15 minutes. With that in mind, state public safety agencies advise limiting unnecessary travel during this period.

Parts of the body most commonly affected by frostbite include the face, ears, hands and feet. Frostbitten skin is whitish and stiff, and the area will feel numb rather than painful. To treat frostbite, warm the affected part of the body gradually. Wrap the frostbitten area in blankets, sweaters, coats, etc., and seek medical attention immediately. Do not rub frostbitten areas, as the friction can damage the tissue, health officials said.

Hypothermia is another threat of extreme cold.

Hypothermia is caused by a drop in body temperature to 95 degrees or lower and can be fatal if not detected promptly and treated properly. Infants and the elderly are particularly at risk of hypothermia. Signs of hypothermia include shivering, exhaustion, confusion, drowsiness, slurred speech, weak pulse and slow heartbeat, and infants may experience bright red and cold skin.

Hypothermia shouldn’t be treated at home. It should be treated in a hospital, according to state health officials.

Keep an eye on your home’s pipes

Take steps to prevent frozen pipes. Homeowners should allow a small trickle of water to run overnight to keep pipes from freezing, said Karen Cotton, communications director at Illinois American Water. The cost of a short-term trickle is much less costly than a repair to a burst pipe.

Homeowners also should open cabinet doors to expose pipes. Opening cabinet doors exposes pipes to warmer room temperatures.

If in-home pipes freeze, homeowners should shut off the water immediately and not attempt to thaw frozen pipes unless the water is shut off. Freezing can often cause unseen cracks in pipes or joints. At this point, apply heat to the frozen pipe by warming the air around it. Customers can use a hair dryer, space heater or hot water. Space heaters should not be left unattended, and homeowners should avoid using kerosene heaters or open flames.

Once pipes thaw, water should be turned on slowly, and pipes should be checked for cracks and leaks.

If you are away from your home, have a friend, relative or neighbor regularly check to ensure the heat is working and the pipes have not frozen. Consider purchasing a freeze alarm. The alarm will call a user-selected phone number if the inside temperature drops below 45 degrees.

Homeowners can spend between $200 to $2,000 on a burst pipe, not including any water damage to flooring or walls.

Take care of your pets

Pines Meadow Veterinary Clinic in Oregon, Illinois, offers a number of pet friendly tips:

    Be on the lookout for animals hiding under the hood of a vehicle. Cats will often snuggle underneath the hood to find warmth on cold days. Bang on the hood and make sure no animals are underneath.
    During extreme cold, stay indoors.
    Be aware of hypothermia symptoms: shivering, whining, sluggish or anxious behavior.
    It’s OK to dress your pet in a sweater, especially if they are going to be outside for any period of time.
    Wipe away any salt from their feet.
    Provide warm beds for pets to use.

Be safe heating your home

• Never use a generator inside your home, basement or garage.

• Do not use a stove or oven as a home heating source.

• If using a space heater, keep it at least three feet away from flammable items such as curtains, blankets and sofas.

• Know the signs for carbon monoxide poisoning: headache, dizziness, weakness, upset stomach, vomiting, chest pain and confusion.

When traveling, be prepared in the event your car stalls

Elizabeth Clausing, public information officer for the northern region Illinois State Police, said motorists should be prepared when traveling in winter weather, especially in extreme temperatures.

    Dress appropriately for the weather. Wear layers in anticipation of unexpected winter weather emergencies. Don’t wear less clothing, banking on being in a heated car the whole trip.
    Make sure someone is aware of your travel plans. If traveling a long distance, let someone know your route and estimated departure and arrival time.
    Make sure your cellphone is fully charged. Also be sure to keep a cellphone charger with you in your vehicle.
    Always carry an emergency car care kit that contains jumper cables, flares or reflectors, windshield washer fluid, a small ice scraper, traction material, blankets, nonperishable food and a first aid kit.

The American Automobile Association offers these tips to care for your car in the extreme cold:

    Keep your vehicle warm: If you can park inside a garage or under a cover like a carport, that’s best. If you don’t have a garage, park your car close to a building to avoid exposure to wind.
    Check battery and tires: According to AAA, low air pressure can reduce your fuel economy, create greater stopping distance, increase tire wear and tear and even potentially cause a tire blowout.
    Mechanics advise keeping your gas tank more than half full during the winter. The more empty the tank is, the more condensation can form and freeze the fuel line.

Source: News Tribune