Burrrrrrrrrr – it’s cold!

Published 7:29 pm Monday, January 6, 2014

Throw another log on the fire…..make that four or five logs.

The coldest air in more than two decades has the typically mild southeastern U.S. in its grips….leaving dangerously cold temperatures and sub-zero wind chills in its wake.

The National Weather Service office in Wakefield, VA has all of northeastern North Carolina and southside Virginia under a Wind Chill Advisory from 3 a.m. until 12 noon on Tuesday.

After an icy low temp of 11 degrees on Monday night, Tuesday’s high is forecast at a bone-chilling 21 degrees. Wind chill values on Tuesday may dip as low as minus six degrees, thanks mostly in part to a westerly breeze as high as 17 mph.

Expect clear skies and another cold night on Tuesday where the low will be 14 degrees. The temperature will finally get above freezing on Wednesday where the high is expected at 36 degrees under sunny skies.

And if you’re wondering, the all-time record low for the Roanoke-Chowan area, as recorded at the Peanut Belt Research Station in Lewiston, is minus five degrees on Jan. 21, 1985. That same day, the North Carolina’s all-time record low (-34) was set at Mt.Mitchell. The local area’s all-time record high (daytime) minimum temperature is +1 degrees on Feb. 8, 1961.

The current prolonged period of below freezing weather, plus the wicked wind chill values, poses a medical danger to all.

“During extreme cold weather, hypothermia and frostbite are a concern,” said Dr. Jeff Severa, chief of the medical staff at Vidant Roanoke-Chowan Hospital. “We are especially concerned about those who live alone and the elderly. I am also concerned about our patients with diabetes and those with breathing and/or lung problems during this cold weather.”

Severa offers the following tips for cold weather safety:

If you live alone, arrange for a daily check-in call with a friend, neighbor, relative, church members, etc.

Instead of tight clothing, wear several loose, warm layers. Wear a hat and scarf to avoid significant heat loss through your head and neck if you must venture outdoors.

Stay dry. Moisture from perspiration, rain, or melting snow can seriously reduce or destroy the insulating value of clothing.

Wool, silk or polypropylene inner layers of clothing hold more body heat than cotton.

Do not ignore shivering. It’s an important first sign that the body is losing heat. Persistent shivering is a signal to return indoors to avoid frost bite and hypothermia.

Those who suffer from COPD, asthma or heart problems should avoid excessive cold air breathing – remain inside as much as possible. When going outside, use face coverings: hat, ear muffs, scarf or mask for face, mouth and nose.

Diabetics should wear socks and shoes at all times. Also pay close attention to the temperature of your feet, check often to ensure they are warm and dry.

Those with breathing and/or lung problems should avoid indoor kerosene heaters as much as possible. When unavoidable, try to place the heaters in a room other than the one you are occupying if safe to do use.

As far as protecting your property, the best advice is to immediately close all air vents in your home’s foundation as well as any other openings. This will help reduce the amount cold air underneath your home.

To help prevent residential pipes from freezing, especially those not insulated or exposed to the elements, drip your indoor faucets, preferably on both ends of your home to allow the water in the pipes to constantly move. It’s also wise to unhook water hoses from outdoor faucets.

And remember, if you’re cold, so are your pets. Hertford County PAWS offers the following advice as provided by the ASPCA:

In all of your pets, indoor and outdoor, watch for stillness, whining, reluctance to go out in cold, looking for places to hide or burrow, shivering or any change in behavior. Don’t have them out in the cold any more than necessary.  If you notice change in behavior in your pet such as excessive shivering, signs of depression or lethargy, or weakness – your pet may be suffering from hypothermia or a body temperature that is below normal. If you notice these symptoms wrap him/her in a blanket, keep him warm (even if you have to snuggle them with your own body heat) and get him to a vet as quickly as possible.

Give them hay or straw as bedding if they must stay outside. Frequently check water for outside pets to make sure that it is clean and not frozen. Bring them inside or into a warm shelter, if at all possible. A place off the floor like a cozy bed away from a draft is best.

Short hair breeds of all sizes would be warmer in a sweater covering their backs, neck and belly. Do remember that they lose their body heat through pads of their feet, ears and respiratory tract. If you shave your dog, keep the fur longer in the winter.

Watch pets carefully near fires or heaters. Have your carbon monoxide levels checked or monitored for your family’s safety as well as your pet.

Elderly and arthritic pets will have more tenderness and stiffness in joints in the winter and may be less coordinated than usual. Be careful during walks and with stairs.

Dogs and cats with health conditions will be in grave danger in extreme cold.

Be careful with all pets as they run or you go for walks in the winter. A patch of ice, slick porch steps, or suddenly exercising cold muscles can cause serious injury.

Once you get cold on an outside walk or stay, your pet is also likely to be cold. Go back inside and take them with you. Don’t leave dogs and cats outside in the cold unsupervised. It is easy for the time to get by you and the pet accidentally forgotten.

Pay special attention to puppies, kittens, senior, sick or small animals since they are more sensitive to cold. Dogs and cats with health conditions will be in grave danger in extreme cold.

In the winter, cats and kittens will sleep under or in the motor of a car for warmth. Bang loudly on the hood to make before starting your car to give them a chance to get out. Also watch for places where they can seek warmth and ultimately get trapped.

More dogs are lost in the winter than any other season. Scents don’t carry well on ice and snow. If your pet doesn’t have a tag so he/she can be returned to you, visit a local hardware or pet store to have a tag made.

If the long-range weather forecast is accurate, expect a return to more seasonable conditions later this week. Highs on Thursday and Friday are expected to be in the low 50’s with overnight lows in the mid-30’s.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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