Oh, baby, get ready for a polar plunge.
It’s going to feel like 35 degrees below zero in some parts of Michigan as a “polar vortex” – a whirlpool of frigid, dense air – circles over southeast Michigan like hungry vultures over carrion.
What does that mean, beyond mind-numbingly cold temperatures that can cause frostbite and hypothermia to set in quickly?
It will be so cold that your nostrils and maybe even your eyes will freeze shut. It’ll be so cold that your dog will refuse to go outside to take care of business. It’ll be so cold that Mars, located 78 million miles further from the Sun than Michigan, will seem like a veritable vacation spot. (OK, we’re exaggerating. But still, Smithsonian magazine reports that over the past month the Rover Environmental Monitoring Station has been reporting daily high temperatures of -25 to -31 degrees Celsius, or about -13 to -24 degrees Fahrenheit.)
Weather officials say it’s dangerously cold. In fact, it hasn’t been this cold in Michigan for about two decades, according to the National Weather Service, which issued a wind chill warning for southeast Michigan effective until 7 a.m. Wednesday.
How to Deal with the Cold and Snow
The American Red Cross offers these survival tips:
- Wear layers of lightweight clothing to stay warm. Gloves and a hat will help prevent losing body heat.
- Be careful while shoveling snow. It’s physically strenuous, so take frequent breaks and stay hydrated.
- Seek medical attention immediately if you have symptoms of hypothermia, including confusion, dizziness, exhaustion and severe shivering.
- Watch for symptoms of frostbite, which include numbness; flushed gray, white, blue or yellow skin discoloration;, or waxy feeling skin.
- Don’t forget your pets – bring them indoors. If they can’t come inside, make sure they have enough shelter to keep them warm and that they can get to unfrozen water.
- Avoid frozen pipes – run water, even at a trickle, to help prevent them from freezing. Open the kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. Be sure to move any harmful cleaners and household chemicals out of the reach of children. Keep the garage doors closed if there are water lines in the garage.
- Keep the thermostat at the same temperature day and night. Your heating bill may be a little higher, but you could avoid a more costly repair job if your pipes freeze and burst.
If You’re Using Auxiliary Heating ...
Heating systems are running at full force and many people are resorting to other sources to keep their homes warm. To avoid fire danger, you should remember the following:
Never use a stove or oven to heat your home.
- If you are using a space heater, place it on a level, hard surface and keep anything flammable at least three feet away – things such as paper, clothing, bedding, curtains or rugs. Turn off space heaters and make sure fireplace embers are out before leaving the room or going to bed.
- If you are using a fireplace, use a glass or metal fire screen large enough to catch sparks and rolling logs.
- Use generators correctly – never operate a generator inside the home, including in the basement or garage.
- Don’t hook a generator up to the home’s wiring. The safest thing to do is to connect the equipment you want to power directly to the outlets on the generator.