The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Local News

January 7, 2014

Prepare for frostbite, frozen pipes

Winter is packing a heavy punch this year, but the National Weather Service is offering plenty of helpful tips to fight back.

With wind chill factors dipping to a dangerous minus-30 degrees in southern West Virginia, frostbite and hypothermia are two very real possibilities.

NWS defines wind chill as not the actual temperature, but how wind and cold feels on exposed skin. People and animals are affected by wind chill, as heat is carried away from the body at an accelerated rate.

Frostbite, which causes damage to body tissue from extreme cold, causes a loss of feeling and a white or pale appearance in extremities, such as fingers, toes, ear lobes or the tip of the nose.

With a wind chill of minus-20 degrees, frostbite can occur in just 30 minutes.

If symptoms are detected, seek medical help immediately. While waiting for help, try to slowly rewarm the affected areas.

Hypothermia is a condition where the body temperature drops below 95 degrees and can be fatal. It can also cause lasting kidney, liver and pancreas problems.

Symptoms include uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness and apparent exhaustion.

If a person’s temperature does fall below 95 degrees, seek medical help immediately; however, if medical care is unavailable, warm the person slowly, starting with the body core.

Do not warm the arms and legs first, the NWS said, as this can drive cold blood toward the heart and lead to heart failure.

Use your own body heat to help if necessary and get the person into dry clothing and wrap him or her in a warm blanket, covering the neck and head. Do not give the person any alcohol, drugs, coffee or any hot beverage or food, but warm broth can be offered.

Approximately 50 percent of injuries related to the cold happen to people over 60 years old, and more than 75 percent happen to males, according to the NWS.

Staying indoors is recommended during these severe temperatures, but there are still ways to be prepared.

Loss of heat, power, phone service and a shortage of supplies are the primary concerns at home if storm conditions continue for more than a day.

NWS recommends having the following items at the ready: a flashlight with extra batteries, battery-powered NOAA Weather Radio and a portable radio, extra food and water, high-energy food like dried fruit, nuts and granola bars, food requiring no cooking or refrigeration, extra medicine and baby items, first-aid supplies, heating fuel and an emergency heat source.

Don’t forget your furry friends either — pets need to be moved to sheltered areas or brought inside during extreme temperatures. Also make sure they have plenty of food and water.

Although traveling is not recommended in severe weather, NWS said the following items should be included in a winter survival kit: mobile phone and charger, blankets or sleeping bags, flashlight with extra batteries, first-aid kit, a knife, high-calorie, nonperishable food, extra clothing to keep dry, large empty can to use as emergency toilet, tissues and paper towels, small can and waterproof matches to melt snow for drinking water, sack of sand or cat litter for traction, shovel, windshield scraper and brush, tool kit, tow rope, battery booster cables, water container and road maps.

Don’t forget to travel with your gas tank near full to avoid ice in the tank, and also travel with a fully charged mobile phone. Always let someone know you’re traveling and be sure to bundle up.

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The safety of you and your loved ones is most important during severe weather conditions, but Modley’s Plumbing is offering several tips to keep your homes safe from freezing water lines.

“Make sure all crawl space doors are closed and any wind is diverted away from water pipes,” President Bob Modley said.

“When pipes freeze, it’s mostly because of poor insulation, not shutting a crawl space door or exposure to arctic winds.”

He said leaving a small drip at faucets can also help keep water lines from freezing. “Running water is less apt to freeze, just like a pond freezes before a stream.”

Modley warns although this can help keep lines from freezing, it can also cause an increase in water, electric or gas bills.

He said to also make sure all water hoses are disconnected, and if you have to leave your home, see if a friend or neighbor can keep a check on it.

“If the line does bust, make sure you turn the power off to the water heater or the pilot off if it’s gas.”

He said the water company can help, but with snow on the ground, the meter is sometimes hard to find. “Get familiar with your home and know how to react when something does happen, because a busted water line can do a lot of damage real quick.”

If you do have questions, call Modley’s at 304-255-4357.

Modley added, “Be safe, stay warm and try to get through it with as few problems as possible.”

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