People need to be careful in the cold

Published 10:39 pm Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Weather forecasts are calling not only for snow Thursday evening, but for temperatures to be well below normal for this area over the weekend. People should begin making preparations for what cold weather can do to their homes and other ill effects from the ill winds.

According to the Weather Channel, the average low for this area at this time of year is around 35 degrees. The lows on Friday and Saturday night are predicted to be 10 degrees, with the high only getting up to 30 degrees on Friday and 28 degrees on Saturday.

“The biggest thing that we’re looking at now is Friday and Saturday nights,” said Kevin McKinney, the Marengo County Emergency Management Agency director. “The National Weather Service expects the temperature to get down to 10 degrees both nights. That’s getting critical.”

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After that, temperatures are expected to get closer to normal, with temperatures getting back into the upper 40s as soon as Monday, and the high on Jan. 14 expected to be 51 degrees and the low a comparatively balmy 42.

For those who need help with heating, the American Red Cross has Project SHARE that offers heating assistance, and Selma-Dallas County Community Action has an office in Marengo County, and it offers heating assistance as well, and can be reached at 295-2244.

“Our concern is people who use an unconventional heating source,” McKinney said. “We have a lot of people who will turn their oven on, and that’s extremely dangerous. You have a chance of something happening to the stove or someone getting too close to it or putting something in it. There are so many home fires when you have this sort of thing.

“Also, space heaters have an amount of danger to them, as well, especially when they are unattended. The main thing is to monitor the heating source and not to leave it unattended.”

McKinney said that if someone feels they can last through the cold, but then find that the temperatures are overwhelmingly cold, they should call 911.

“At that point, it does become an emergency,” he said. “We don’t want people calling 911 for heating assistance, but if people do get in a bind and it does become an emergency, we want people to call 911, because at that point, their health is being threatened.”

McKinney said the highest possibility for snow comes on Thursday evening, when there is an 80-percent chance in this area, although less than an inch is predicted.

“We do expect some travel problems on bridges countywide,” he said. “The road department is preparing now to put rock or sand on them. They are going to load trucks (on Wednesday) and have material ready to go. Then, if it does rain and it freezes on the road, then there will be problems, too. People just need to be aware of that kind of problem if they travel.”

Indoors, people should keep water dripping from their faucets and make sure their pipes are insulated. They should also check on neighbors, especially the elderly and infirmed.

Such a prolonged blast of arctic weather is rare for this neck of the woods, but with the right preparation and mindset, people can get through it without much trouble.