Indiana, PA - Indiana County

Dangerous cold prompts public warnings

by on January 06, 2014 11:00 AM

In consideration of the extreme cold that is setting in, the Chevy Chase Community Center in White Township will open as an emergency warming center for people who lose power or do not have heat.

The center will open at around 8 a.m. Tuesday and remain open throughout the day as needed. Warm meals will be available, and center staff will be on hand to assist people with heating emergencies.

Meanwhile, authorities have advised Indiana County residents to take a few extra precautions.

Chief among them is to dress appropriately, should you find it necessary to venture outside.

According to Dr. Donna Balewick, Indiana Regional Medical Center’s assistant director of emergency medicine, appropriate dress includes layers and hats, because the head acts like a chimney and vents body heat. And baseball caps won’t cut it, she said. If anything, they can make the wearer more prone to frostbite because ball caps cause the ears to stick out. Earrings, too, aren’t a good idea as the metal can conduct the cold, she said.

Balewick said that if you are out in the cold and you see a patch of skin turning white or pale, you should seek medical attention. It could be frostbite. And don’t rub the affected area, she advised.

People with asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease shouldn’t venture out at all, she added. The cold will induce wheezing.

Pets, too, can be affected by the extreme cold. Therefore, authorities have said that pets should be brought inside, if possible. Livestock and other animals should be moved to sheltered areas, according to the American Red Cross.

Pennsylvania state police have advised residents that failure to provide adequate shelter for a pet is cause for criminal charges of cruelty to animals, an offense that can lead to $300 in fines and up to 90 days in jail.

The Humane Society of the United States advises that if pets cannot be brought inside, they should be protected by a dry, draft-free enclosure, one that is large enough to allow them to lie down, but small enough to hold in the body heat.

Enclosures should be raised off the ground a few inches, and the floor should be covered with cedar shavings or straw.

The cold also brings the potential for frozen water pipes. Should the pipes in your home freeze, the American Red Cross suggests you open the valve on the frozen line and open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warm interior air to circulate around the plumbing.

Heat the frozen section with something like an electric heating pad, a hair dryer or a portable space heater or by wrapping towels soaked in hot water around the pipe. But never use something with an open flame, such as a blow torch, charcoal stove and kerosene heater, the organization said.

If you have a section of pipe that you know is prone to freezing, the Indiana-Armstrong Builders Association suggests opening the valve and allowing it to drip. The running water should prevent the pipe from freezing.



Sam Kusic is a staff writer for The Indiana Gazette.
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