“Definitely people who have lung problems and other chronic illnesses must be careful,” said Darcy Thorne, emergency services nursing coordinator at Somerset Hospital. “The elderly and infants as well because they have difficulty in regulating body temperature. They should stay indoors. If you do have to go out in the cold, dress in layers and be sure to drink plenty of fluids. Cover your face and ears.”
Holly Beckner, Salvation Army service center director, said if people are running low on home heating fuel they can contact the organization to find out if they are eligible for heating programs.
“Please check on your elderly neighbors,” she said. “They may not know about the heating programs availability so please be sure they know. Also, if you can, offer to run errands for them when it is this cold so they don’t have to go out.”
It isn’t only people who must be careful in the cold. Pets can be endangered, too.
“If you are able to bring your outside dogs in to the basement, garage or the home, it’s best,” said David Mayhugh, Somerset County Humane Society office manager. “If you must keep dogs outside they should have straw or cedar chips in the dog box and a blind on the front opening. They are no different than people — the extreme temperatures can be harmful or even life-threatening.”
Cats are usually allowed indoors, he said. If there are stray cats in your area, and if you are able to provide shelter for them in a garage, shed or old dog box, use straw or cedar chips for them as well.
“We’re trying to prepare for the extreme cold here, too,” he said.
Many people who go out to their cars to go to work in the sub-zero weather may be surprised to find out that their cars won’t start.
Ron DeLano, owner of Ron's Auto Sales & Collision, 918 Stoystown Road, Somerset, said the biggest problem is weak batteries. The symptom that your car’s battery is getting weak is when it starts turning over slowly if the temperature is in the 20s or 30s. As the temperature drops a weak battery has a harder time starting.
“There is no treatment, such as liquids that go in the gas tank, that make a difference,” he said. “Keeping the gas tank full doesn’t help. If you pull into a garage, even if the garage isn’t heated, it is better than the vehicle sitting outside.”
When the temperatures get very cold all the fluids in the vehicle become cold and slow to circulate. If you start moving your vehicle before the fluids have had time to warm up you can damage your vehicle.
“People blow their motors up in the cold by driving without letting them warm up,” DeLano said. “Be sure you don’t turn on your windshield wipers if the blades are frozen to the windshield. They can burn out. The auto places that sell batteries will do crazy business this week.”