Temperatures are expected to be frigid over the weekend and into the next week, so it’s critical to take steps to avoid frostbite or hypothermia, as well as to keep pets indoors and check on cars that have been sitting more often during the pandemic.
With lows expected in the single digits, Greene County Public Health recommends staying inside when possible and avoiding prolonged exposure to these bitter conditions.
Some signs of frostbite include a burning sensation, tingling or numbing. The risk for frostbite is increased for people with poor blood circulation and people who are not properly dressed for the cold weather. Hypothermia can begin with shivering, followed by drowsiness, shallow breathing, slurred speech and, eventually, unconsciousness and death.
“If you’re outside, monitor yourself for signs of frostbite,” said Dan Suffoletto, spokesman for Public Health-Dayton & Montgomery County.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says to plan ahead for extremely cold weather. Keeping a couple days supply of food, water and medicines anyone in the house might need is recommended. Public health officials also recommend keeping an alternative way to heat one’s home on hand in the event that power is lost, like an electric space heater with an automatic shutoff switch or firewood.
Suffoletto said not to plug space heaters into extension cords, to keep them at least three feet from anything flammable and to never leave space heaters unattended. He also advised against using stoves or ovens to heat rooms.
Adults and children who go outside during this stretch of cold weather should wear a hat, scarf, a shirt that has sleeves that are snug at the wrist, mittens and water-resistant boots.
“Wearing a face mask to combat COVID also helps to keep your face from getting frostbitten,” Suffoletto said.
Other COVID-19 precautions should still be observed, he said, like staying away from crowds and not going to other peoples’ homes.
Kara Hitchens, senior specialist with AAA, said keeping up with routine maintenance is the most important thing to do for a car in the winter. But that might have been overlooked by people driving less during the pandemic.
AAA is prepared to see an increase in vehicles with tire, battery and other issues caused by dangerously cold weather this winter. Hitchens said calls for dead batteries have been higher than usual because more vehicles are sitting idle for days or weeks at a time because of COVID.
Before temperatures drop, AAA suggests making sure the battery and charging system are tested by a trained technician, the battery terminals and cable ends are corrosion-free and the connections are tight. AAA provides free battery and tire testing for members at home or at work. AAA offers free battery and tire testing for anyone at any local AAA Car Care locations or any AAA Approved Auto Repair.
“If you’re not moving your car much, you should start it and drive it around the block,” Hitchens said. “When it gets bitter cold, you should start it every day.”
Hitchens also recommends stashing a roadside emergency kit in the car, including a blanket, winter hat, gloves, flashlight, snacks and now a spare facemask and hand sanitizer.
“Dress for the weather,” Hitchens said. “You don’t know what’s going to happen between home and the grocery store.”
As the temperature drops outside, so does the air pressure in a car’s tires. AAA recommends checking tires more frequently for the proper pressure in cold weather. Hitchens said for those who live in a rural area, snow tires are a good idea since snowy roads most likely won’t be cleared right away. AAA also recommends that vehicles have at least a half tank of gas at all times during cold weather.
Gardens, plants and landscaping also need to be cared for year-round, said Kim Hupman, horticulture program assistant at the Greene County OSU Extension office.
Hupman recommends removing any cages or stakes in backyard gardens before snow falls, so no one trips over them. Home gardeners should consider adding a layer of organic matter, like old leaves or compost, to insulate a garden.
The only plants that Miami Valley residents should consider bringing inside or into the garage are potted plants or plants in larger containers.
“Those plants’ roots are above the ground and could freeze,” she said.
Other than that, most properly cared for plants shouldn’t have a problem making it through the winter, Hupman said. To get more information about winterizing home gardens or landscape, reach out to Hupman via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Right now, our plants are dormant,” Hupman said. “So you don’t need to go cover anything with burlap. Relax and wait for spring like our plants are.”
Pets should come inside when the temperature gets cold, except to go out to the bathroom.
Kayli Sanchez, who works at Oakwood Veterinary Clinic, said breeds like huskies and Malamutes love this kind of weather, but they also have the coat for it. Those dogs may prefer to spend longer time outside.
“If your pet is scratching at the door, shivering in one spot, all in all, doesn’t look like she or he is enjoying their time outside, bring them back inside,” she said.
The veterinary clinic also recommends giving pets longer haircuts in the winter so that they can have extra warmth. Animals can get frostbite, especially on their ears, according to the clinic. Smaller dogs are more susceptible to getting frostbitten. Sanchez also recommended using pet friendly salt in icy areas.
“Dogs can slip and hurt themselves just like us. And some salts can be harmful to them,” Sanchez said.