Temperatures, wind chills set to plummet below zero
By CALLAN PUGH
and JOHN WAREHAM
MOUNT VERNON — Negative 30 degree wind chills forecast for Wednesday can pose health hazards for people and their pets.
Temperatures for Wednesday have been forecast at minus-37 degrees, temperatures at which frostbite can occur within minutes. As such, precautions should be taken when venturing outside.
Due to the forecast for extremely cold temperatures Wednesday and Thursday, the News may not be delivered on time.
Wednesday’s high temperature is expected to be below zero and Thursday’s high only 10 degrees. In an effort to keep our drivers and newspaper carriers safe in the bitterly cold weather, the papers will be delivered when it is determined safe to be outside. Thank you for your understanding.
In preparation for extreme cold, Wednesday and Thursday from 9 a.m.-6:30 p.m. at the Salvation Army, 206 East Ohio Avenue, Mount Vernon will serve as a warming center for the public. Individuals can get warm, charge cell phones and use restrooms as needed. No food will be provided.
Fredericktown EMS Chief Rick Lanuzza recommends just staying inside during the more brutally cold days, but if you have to go outside, there is a way to dress accordingly.
“Don’t go out unless you have to,” Lanuzza said. “If you do have to, wear multiple layers. Ideally, the first layer is of something synthetic, second layer of maybe wool and the third of something wind or water resistant. But definitely layers.”
Much of the danger of venturing out in the bitter cold is exposing your skin to the elements for any length of time. According to Lanuzza, it doesn’t take long to be a problem.
“It would take literally minutes to cause injury to unprotected skin,” he said.
While everyone is affected by the frigid weather, children and the elderly are particularly sensitive to the cold. “The older and younger population are more susceptible to the drastic changes and extra precautions should be taken for them,” Lanuzza said.
Just like humans, outside animals are especially susceptible to cold temperatures. Dangerous temperatures for animals, Dr. Elaine Sipka, a veterinarian at the Knox County Humane Society, explained, depend on the animal and the temperatures it is used to. Whenever temperatures drop below zero, Sipka said, it can be dangerous for animals in this region. Younger animals and small animals also tend to have more trouble regulating their body temperatures and can be more susceptible to cold, she said.
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Kelly Spencer, with the Knox County Humane Society, explained that the best way to keep outdoor pets safe in subzero temperatures is to bring them inside, whether that be in the house or in a garage, basement or barn. Keeping the animals out of the wind is key, Spencer said.
For individuals who don’t have an inside space or barn to shelter their animals, Spencer said, it is important to provide the animal with a temporary shelter such as a dog house or a plastic storage bin with a small hole cut in the side for outdoor cats.
Outdoor shelters should be well stocked with straw, Spencer said, rather than blankets. Straw holds in body heat well and does not absorb moisture. Blankets, on the other hand, absorb moisture and can freeze in cold temperatures, rendering them ineffective. For pet owners in need of straw, the humane society offers the first bale free and additional bales at a minimal cost, Spencer said.
Additional measures such as electric heating pads, especially those that do not turn off and can be set to a low temperature, can be helpful to keep outside animals warm as well, she noted, and can be found at farm supply stores.
Animals out in cold temperature need fresh water and plenty of food, according to Dr. Sipka. Animals use more energy keeping themselves warm as temperatures drop and therefore need to consume more food. To keep water from freezing, pet owners can utilize heated water dishes, which can also be found at farm supply shops. Animals should always have a fresh supply of unfrozen water available to them, Sipka said.
Lanuzza said EMS units have additional challenges in responding to emergency calls in sub-zero temperatures, particularly when the incident is outside. Not only do the emergency crews have to make sure they stay warm, but they also have to make sure the other people also do, and attend to any injuries, at the same time.
“Sometimes there are accidents and people are stuck in vehicles. We have to pay attention when getting them so they’re not exposed to the temps,” Lanuzza said. “We can keep them warm with IV fluids and hot packs and heaters in the truck. The very first things we find out are what are the injuries and how warm are they?”
The Red Cross in Mount Vernon will open a warming station Wednesday and Thursday for those in need of a warm place. Cellphones can be charged and bathrooms will be available. For information, call 740-397-6300.