Editorial: Stay safe, and warm, during cold blast

Carroll County likely woke up to a dusting of a few inches of fresh snow on the ground Friday morning, but it’s the impending precipitation and bitterly cold temperatures this weekend that should be cause for concern.

Temperatures will hover just above freezing Saturday and Sunday, but a near 100 percent chance of precipitation means the dreaded wintry mix of snow, sleet and freezing rain. That will be immediately followed by a sharp dip in temperatures to below freezing Sunday night and continuing through the first few days of the week. At times, wind chills will dip below 0 degrees.


These are the kinds of storms that create seriously hazardous driving conditions, as snow and ice melts and re-freezes, creating slippery and often invisible black ice on the roadways.

Even though state and county roads crews will be out for the duration of the storm, when temperatures get bitterly cold like they are expected to over the weekend and into Monday — forecasters are calling for highs in the single-digits — it renders road salt and salt-brine solutions less effective.

The good news for Monday is that schools are already closed for the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday, some parents may have already taken off work to stay home with their kids and some employers will also be closed, meaning fewer people will have to be out and about, allowing roads crews to do their jobs. If you do have to work Monday, it might be a good idea to make arrangements with your employer to telecommute if your company allows it.

For those who don’t have that option, plan ahead to give yourself extra time so you can slow down and navigate potentially dangerous conditions on the road. AAA suggests motorists leave at least three times more space than usual between your vehicle and the one in front of you when traveling on slippery surfaces, giving yourself extra time to stop. If your vehicle does begin to skid, don’t slam on the brakes, as that can make it worse. Instead, take your foot off the brake or gas pedal, look and steer where you want to go, then accelerate slowly.

If you must be outside in frigid weather, first and foremost make sure your head is covered. We lose almost half of our body heat through our heads. Health experts also recommend wearing layers of lightweight, loose-fitting clothes rather than tightly packing on heavy layers of clothing. The air between the layers will act as insulation to keep you warmer.

Finally, one last thing to look out for with extreme temperature drops like the one forecasted for Sunday into Monday is freezing pipes in your house. What typically happens is water inside pipes will freeze and expand when temperatures dip, causing them to burst, but homeowners won’t notice until temperatures go back up and water starts spewing — as much as 250 gallons per day, according to Brooks Eure, a Maryland manager for AAA Insurance.

If possible, use an indoor valve to shut off and drain water from any pipes leading to outside faucets, to reduce the chance pipes inside will freeze. It’s also not a bad idea to let a little warm water drip from an inside faucet, preferably one on an outside wall, overnight when a freeze is expected. This will keep water flowing through pipes and can prevent them from freezing. Opening cabinet doors under sinks allows heat to reach uninsulated pipes there, preventing freezing as well.

And if you’re escaping the cold weather for a vacation this three-day weekend, consider turning off the main water valve to your home. In that case, if a pipe does burst, it will be a limited amount of water that escapes. Turn your heat down, but not all the way off, which will also prevent freezing.