DENVER — The coldest temperatures of the winter season have settled across Colorado for a stretch of several days bringing dangerously low wind chills across the state, including the Denver metro area. The combination of wind and cold temps will combine for wind chills well below zero starting Saturday through at least Monday.
While Coloradans are used to cold snaps, the extreme wind chills can pose a danger to people, pets and pipes.
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Frostbite is a concern for anyone who will be out in the elements, even for a short amount of time. In fact, frostbite can happen in as little as 5 to 10 minutes. Hypothermia can also quickly become an issue.
PROTECT YOURSELF FROM THE COLD
During a deep freeze and low wind chills, people often underestimate the risk of being exposed to the elements. Frostbite and hypothermia are booth concerns. Frostbite is a freezing injury leading to tissue damage that can develop in as little as 5 minutes.
Most common on fingers, toes and exposed skin on the face, symptoms begin with numbness and can lead to hard or waxy-looking skin as it progresses through several stages.
Hypothermia can happen when the body loses heat faster than it can be produced and the signs include shivering, slurred speech and drowsiness, according to the Mayo Clinic.
HOW TO PREVENT FROSTBITE
These frostbite prevention tips might sound obvious but are a good reminder for anyone, especially people new to Colorado who might not be used to a prolonged deep freeze.
- Limit your time outdoors
- Dress in layers and choose undergarments that wick moisture from your skin. Get out of wet clothing as soon as possible.
- Cover your ears with woolen or windproof material.
- Mittens can provide better protection than gloves and wearing a second pair of gloves or glove liners underneath can help.
- Avoid alcohol as it causes your body to lose heat faster
- Stay hydrated
HOW TO WARM BACK UP
If frostbite is suspected, the damaged areas of skin obviously need to be warmed back up but it shouldn’t happen until you’re out of the cold. Here are a few steps to take:
- Get inside! Walking on frostbitten feet and toes can cause more damage
- Remove wet clothing
- Treat skin affected by frostbite with water that is warm to touch. Not hot water, though
- Never use heat from a fireplace, radiator or stove to warm the skin
- Don’t rub areas with frostbite
You’ve heard the saying “people, pets and plants” when thinking about keeping safe during a deep freeze. When it comes to people, keep an extra set of eyes on babies and seniors as they can be the most vulnerable to extreme temperatures. Older adults can lose body heat faster and that can make it harder to recognize the danger signs. These are great cold weather safety tips from National Institute on Aging.
PROTECT YOUR PETS
If you have pets, you'll want to make sure they're safe from the cold, so keep them inside or you could be fined $999 and/or get a year in jail, according to the Denver Animal Protection division.
If an animal must be outside, Denver city ordinance requires owners to have an adequate outdoor shelter such as a doghouse, porch area, or a structure that allows the animal to escape the elements and keeps them dry. It should be large enough for pets to sit and lie down in, but small enough to retain their body heat. The entrance should also be covered with a flap of heavy waterproof fabric or heavy plastic, the ordinance states.
Some additional tips to keep pets safe:
- When pets come in from the outdoors, remove snow, ice, salt and other ice-treatment chemicals from their coats and paws. This keeps them dry, but also prevents them from ingesting the chemicals. You should also look for signs that your pet’s feet are uncomfortably cold, including frequently lifting up their paws, whining, or stopping.
- Don't leave your pet inside vehicles for prolonged periods of time: Temperatures can change quickly in winter, especially as the sun sets and cars can act like a refrigerator, holding in cold air and putting your pet at risk
- Provide extra food and water: Pets spending time outdoors in the winter use a lot of energy to stay warm. Provide a little extra food and regularly check your pet’s water dish is not frozen. Use plastic bowls instead of metal to prevent your pet’s tongue from freezing to them
- Don’t leave dangerous and potentially lethal chemicals like snow and ice remover or anti-freeze within your pet’s reach
- Always keep pets on a leash, especially near frozen bodies of water. If a pet falls through the ice, don’t go onto the ice to rescue them. If you can’t reach your pet from shore, call 911 for help
Pipes could be a major concern during this deep freeze, so it’s a good idea to know the location of your water shut-off valve in case of a water line break. Many shut-off valves are in a basement or crawl space, according to Denver Water.
Here are some other deep freeze tips from denverwater.org:
- Open cabinet doors near exposed pipes, like near a sink, so household air can warm the pipes
- An obvious one, but keep an attached garage door shut.
- Crack a faucet, start a slow drip. Denver Water recommends doing this at a faucet farthest from where water enters your home.
- Keep your home’s thermostat at 65 degrees when leaving for several days
If you experience a dreaded frozen pipe, try to thaw the pipe as soon as possible or call a plumber. A hair dryer can even be used, but not a blow torch! Read more tips on how to thaw a frozen pipe.
And even though freezing temps have already settled across Colorado this season (It’s winter, after all!) Denver Water reminds you to turn off outdoor faucets and remove hoses. And while you have time before the deep freeze hits, take a few moments to check for vulnerable pipes that need insulation or protection.
Denver7 | Weather
How to prevent your pipes from freezing as temperatures start dropping
DRIVING? MAKE SURE TO BE WEATHER-READY
During this deep freeze, it’s a good idea to check and be sure you are prepared out on the road. A winter car survival kit is always important to have during a Colorado winter, especially for traveling over extended periods of time. Here’s a list of things to have handy from the National Weather Service and the Colorado State Patrol.
Before you go:
- Gas up or plug in: Fill up your tank and make sure you have a full charge on your hybrid or electric vehicle the night before you travel to keep the battery temperature at optimal range in case you are stranded in the cold
- Inspect your tires: Colorado's Traction Law requires all tires to have at least 3/16" of tread depth
- Keep your tires inflated t your manufacturer's recommended inflation pressure: Remember, when temperatures drop, so does tire pressure
- Refill all of your vehicle's fluids, including a "winter" windshield wiper fluid with de icer.
Keep in your car:
- A snow shovel, broom and ice scraper
- Sand or kitty littler in the event you get stuck
- Jumper cables
- Flashlight with extra batteries
- Warning devices (emergency markers)
- An extra set of warm gear, gloves, etc.
- Extra blankets
- Water and non-perishable food
- Keep a standard first-aid kit in your vehicle
What to do if you get stranded:
- Stay with your vehicle
- Let your car be seen by putting markers on the antenna or window
- Be mindful of carbon monoxide poisoning: Make sure our exhaust pipe is clear of any snow and run your car only sporadically — just long enough to stay warm
Don’t run your car for long periods of time with the windows up or in an enclosed space
Cold weather survival guide8:24 AM, Dec 08, 2016
OTHER TIPS TO STAY WARM, SAVE ENERGY AT HOME
It's going to be a very cold stretch of days in Colorado, so might as well do everything you can to stay warm. But because of inflation, you might be wondering how to do so while also saving a bit of money on energy bills.
Xcel Energy provided the following tips to reduce energy use as an arctic blast descends upon Colorado:
- Lower your thermostat a few degrees, ideally to 68 degrees or lower
- Adjust your programmable thermostat to automatically lower the temperature while you are away or while you sleep
- During daylight hours, open drapes and blinds to maximize heat from direct sunlight. To retain heat, keep them closed when it is dark
- Run ceiling fans in a clockwise direction to push warm air down from the ceiling, adding comfort and savings
- Keep interior doors open to help circulate air more freely and maintain constant heating levels