Temperatures plummet after snow impacts region; what you should know

Snow was quickly covering the ground Thursday evening and temperatures were expected to drop to around zero degrees Friday night. Photo by John Strickler/21st Century Media

The snow came as forecast Thursday, walloping the area with 5 to 7 inches through the evening and overnight, closing area schools and reducing travel to a crawl on area roads.

PennDOT worked through the night, clearing highways across Pennsylvania as the first winter storm of 2014 ushered in frigid temperatures and strong, bone-chilling winds.

Temperatures are expected to drop down to zero degrees tonight, according to the National Weather Service. Add with the wind chill and it will feel like -4 in most areas around Phoenixville.

Such cold temperatures pose a risk to the very young, elderly and those without shelter.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advise that if you are going outside in extreme cold, dress appropriately, work slowly, take a cell phone in case of an emergency, and take a buddy if you are doing outdoor sports or activities.

Anyone working outside should dress in loose warm layers as layers provide better protection from the cold, according to the CDC.

If a person’s body temperature drops below 95 degrees, they can become disoriented and not realize how much danger they are in, the CDC says. Being too cold can also cloud your judgement and lead to deadly mistakes, the CDC says.

Extreme cold can lead to frost bite and/or trench foot. The colder the temps, the faster body tissue can freeze, leading to these conditions, the CDC warns. Make sure your toes, fingers, nose and ears are well-covered in the cold.

The cold can also cause chillblains, which is breaking, redness and swelling of the skin caused by repeated exposure to cold temperatures 60 degrees or below, according to the CDC. It occurs due to damage to small blood vessels in the skin, the CDC says.

To avoid overexposure to the cold, take regular breaks in a warm location when working outdoors, the CDC advises.

If you see someone in need of shelter, you can refer them to the following homeless assistance groups in the area: http://bit.ly/1g5Drke

One of the biggest threats from the cold can actually affect people indoors — carbon monoxide poisoning.

The CDC advises people to learn the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning: nausea, headaches and disorientation. Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas that can kill quickly if it builds up in a home. Carbon monoxide can rob the body of oxygen, leading to illness and death.

It is produced by heating systems as a byproduct of combustion. Make sure your heating system is properly ventilated and if you are using a portable combustion heater, make sure there is a source of fresh air into the room where it is located.

If you are heating up your car in the garage, make sure the garage door is open and close any access to your home. If you find yourself stranded in your car, make sure your tailpipe is clear of snow, or the carbon monoxide can flow back into your car.

If you have pets, do not leave them outside in the cold. Animals can also suffer from exposure. When walking your dog, keep him on a leash. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals warns dogs can easily get lost in the snow because they cannot detect scent in it.

If you do take your dog outside, make sure to clean off the pet’s paws and underbelly as they can pick up ice melt and salt on them.

Your dog “can ingest salt, antifreeze or other potentially dangerous chemicals while licking his paws, and his paw pads may also bleed from snow or encrusted ice,” the ASPCA warns on its website.

Never leave your pets alone in the car in the cold as vehicles can act as refrigerators, holding in the cold and possibly causing them to die, the ASPCA warns.

If you have cats, keep them inside out of the cold. And be sure to check your car for stray animals sleeping under the hood by banging on it and giving the animal time to escape before starting the engine, the ASPCA advises.

When traveling in heavy snow or bad winter weather conditions, make sure you have an emergency kit that includes fresh water, blankets, an extra layer of clothing, and food. And always tell someone the route you are traveling and your planned times of departure and arrival.

For more cold weather tips, visit the following websites:

www.cdc.gov

www.aspca.org/pet-care/cold-weather-tips

This post was edited by Matthew D’Ippolito.