February is about warm hearts, but also cold hands. Winter 2015 has much of the eastern U.S. gripped in frigid cold temperatures and it’s likely to get colder reported the Associated Press Feb. 19. On Feb. 20, many Michigan schools closed not for a snow day, but simply because is was so dangerously cold. Temps hit -8 to -24 statewide. The National Weather Service issued a hazardous weather warning for extreme cold for Feb. 20. Here are winter weather survival tips related specifically to cold.
Avoid exposure. It’s probably obvious that keeping warm is vital. But you might be surprised to learn how fast frostbite can set in. The NWS warned that skin exposed to cold can freeze in less than 15 minutes. Store warm blankets in your car.
Layer loose clothing. Wearing tight clothing can actually make you colder as it cuts off circulation. Wear warm leggings with loose fitting pants and socks over top. Start with a T-shirt or thermal shirt then cover with hooded sweatshirt and vest. Wear double protection on feet and hands (mittens over gloves).
Line boots. Add extra protection to boots by cutting foot-shaped pieces of felt, polar fleece or cardboard and inserting in boots or shoes. Line with plastic grocery bags to form a moisture barrier.
Don’t go out after showering or washing your hair. Body temps are elevated after showering and make you more vulnerable to cold. Avoid going out with wet hair. If you sweat, dry off before going outside.
If you have to be outside, take frequent warm-up breaks. If you must walk a distance, look for places to get out of the cold. Try to walk sheltered from biting wind. Cold wind can take your breath away or exacerbate breathing problems. Cover your face with a scarf.
Clean outdoor furnace vents or chimney of snow. If you have a newer furnace with a side vent pipe, drifting snow can clog the intake valve. This will shut your furnace down. It will still blow cold air (to purge gas from the cycle.) So you might hear the furnace running and not realize that it heating. Take a bottle brush or toothbrush and clear away ice and snow trapped in vent. Check exhaust vents too, though those are less likely to clog up.
Run a space heater. But use caution. These can cause fires. Don’t use older space heaters that might not be up to code. Keep unit free of debris and cord untangled. Keep unit away from contact with surfaces. Don’t overload circuits.
Stay inside as much as possible. If you don’t absolutely have to go somewhere, don’t. Many accidents and cold-related health problems can be avoided if people just stay warm. Common sense is the first rule of winter safety.