Indiana, PA - Indiana County

Extreme Cold

If Your Pipes Freeze

 

What should you do if your pipes freeze?  Plumbing experts say the thaw out from a deep freeze can be more troublesome for homeowners.  While the best advice is to call a professional here are some techniques to safely thaw those frozen pipes.

 

  • If possible, expose a boxed-in area to the inside heat. An example includes opening some ceiling tiles if your home has a drop ceiling. 

  • Use a heat gun. However, be extremely careful as the heat from the heat gun will ignite any wood or paper it contacts. 

  • DO NOT use torches to thaw pipes! 

  • Rubbing the pipes with warm, damp rags may slowly thaw the line. 

  • If you do not have water for an extended period of time, special attention should be given to hot water heaters and boilers.

What should I do if a pipe breaks?

Shut off your water immediately, using your home's shutoff valve.

 

Where are my shutoff valves?

There are actually two major shutoff valves in line with your service. The first valve, called a curb stop, is generally located near the property line and is normally housed by a cylinder with a cap on it called the curb box. The other major valve is located in the home next to the water meter. Other valves may be near plumbing appliances such as sinks and toilets.

Keeping your main valve in good working condition will assure you that you will be able to turn your water off in the event of an emergency, in case one of your water pipes breaks, for example. Older style gate valves should be turned periodically due to possible corrosion build-up. Newer Teflon coated ball valves should stay in working order without any regular turning.

 

What if my main valve does not work in an emergency?

You should call your local Public Works Department so that someone can shut off your water.

 

Power Outages

 

Important Information should you lose your power:


REA Energy:  Call 724-463-7273 or 800-332-7273

Click to View Current Outages

 

Penelec: 1-888-LIGHTSS (1-888-544-4877)

Click to View Current Outages

Latest News

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The National Weather Service warns of low temperatures and wind chill factors below zero today and later this week. Here are some cold weather tips from the Centers for Disease Control. [Read More]

Surviving the Extreme Cold

 

When exposed to cold temperatures, your body begins to lose heat faster than it can be produced. Prolonged exposure to cold will eventually use up your body’s stored energy. The result is hypothermia, or abnormally low body temperature. Body temperature that is too low affects the brain, making the victim unable to think clearly or move well. This makes hypothermia particularly dangerous because a person may not know it is happening and won’t be able to do anything about it.

How to Prevent Hypothermia

 

Frostbite is an injury to the body that is caused by freezing. Frostbite causes a loss of feeling and color in affected areas. It most often affects the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers, or toes. Frostbite can permanently damage the body, and severe cases can lead to amputation. The risk of frostbite is increased in people with reduced blood circulation and among people who are not dressed properly for extremely cold temperatures.

How to Prevent Frostbite

 

Indoor Safety

  • Use fireplace, wood stoves, or other combustion heaters only if they are properly vented to the outside and do not leak flue gas into the indoor air space.
  • Never use a charcoal or gas grill indoors—the fumes are deadly.
  • Never leave lit candles unattended.
  • Keep as much heat as possible inside your home.
  • Check the temperature in your home often during severely cold weather.
  • Leave all water taps slightly open so they drip continuously.
  • Eat well-balanced meals to help you stay warmer.

Heat Your Home Safely

If you plan to use a wood stove, fireplace, or space heater, be extremely careful. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and remember these safety tips:

  • Use fireplace, wood stoves, or other combustion heaters only if they are properly vented to the outside and do not leak flue gas into the indoor air space.
  • Do not burn paper in a fireplace.
  • Ensure adequate ventilation if you must use a kerosene heater.
  • Use only the type of fuel your heater is designed to use—don’t substitute.
  • Do not place a space heater within 3 feet of anything that may catch on fire, such as drapes, furniture, or bedding, and never cover your space heater.
  • Never place a space heater on top of furniture or near water.
  • Never leave children unattended near a space heater.
  • Make sure that the cord of an electric space heater is not a tripping hazard but do not run the cord under carpets or rugs.
  • Avoid using extension cords to plug in your space heater.
  • If your space heater has a damaged electrical cord or produces sparks, do not use it.
  • Store a multipurpose, dry-chemical fire extinguisher near the area to be heated.
  • Protect yourself from carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning by installing a battery-operated CO detector and never using generators, grills, camp stoves, or similar devices indoors.

Cook Safely

  • Never use a charcoal or gas grill indoors—the fumes are deadly.
  • Never use an electric generator indoors, inside the garage, or near the air intake of your house because of the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Plug in appliances to the generator using individual heavy-duty, outdoor-rated cords.
  • Do not use the generator or appliances if they are wet because of the risk of electrocution.
  • Do not store gasoline indoors where the fumes could ignite.

Light Your Home Safely

If there is a power failure:

  • Use battery-powered flashlights or lanterns rather than candles, if possible.
  • Never leave lit candles unattended.

Conserve Heat

You may need fresh air coming in for your heater or for emergency cooking arrangements. However, if you don’t need extra ventilation, keep as much heat as possible inside your home. Avoid unnecessary opening of doors or windows. Close off unneeded rooms, stuff towels or rags in cracks under doors, and close draperies or cover windows with blankets at night.

Monitor Body Temperature

Infants less than one year old should never sleep in a cold room because (1) infants lose body heat more easily than adults; and (2) unlike adults, infants can’t make enough body heat by shivering. Provide warm clothing for infants and try to maintain a warm indoor temperature. If the temperature cannot be maintained, make temporary arrangements to stay elsewhere. In an emergency, you can keep an infant warm using your own body heat. If you must sleep, take precautions to prevent rolling on the baby. Pillows and other soft bedding can also present a risk of smothering; remove them from the area near the baby.

Older adults often make less body heat because of a slower metabolism and less physical activity. If you are over 65 years of age, check the temperature in your home often during severely cold weather. Also, check on elderly friends and neighbors frequently to ensure that their homes are adequately heated.

Keep a Water Supply

Extreme cold can cause water pipes in your home to freeze and sometimes rupture. When very cold temperatures are expected:

  • Leave all water taps slightly open so they drip continuously.
  • Keep the indoor temperature warm.
  • Improve the circulation of heated air near pipes. For example, open kitchen cabinet doors beneath the kitchen sink.

If your pipes do freeze, do not thaw them with a torch. Instead, thaw them slowly by directing the warm air from an electric hair dryer onto the pipes.

If you cannot thaw your pipes, or the pipes are ruptured, use bottled water or get water from a neighbor’s home. As an emergency measure—if no other water is available—snow can be melted for water. Bringing water to a rolling boil for one minute will kill most microorganisms or parasites that may be present, but won’t remove chemical pollutants sometimes found in snow.

Eat and Drink Wisely

Eating well-balanced meals will help you stay warmer. Do not drink alcoholic or caffeinated beverages—they cause your body to lose heat more rapidly. Instead, drink warm, sweet beverages or broth to help maintain your body temperature. If you have any dietary restrictions, ask your doctor.

Outdoor Safety

  • Dress warmly and stay dry.
  • Wear a hat, scarf, and mittens.
  • Avoid frostbite.
  • If you have to do heavy outdoor chores, dress warmly and work slowly.
  • Avoid walking on ice or getting wet.
  • Notify friends and family where you will be before you go hiking, camping, or skiing.
  • Avoid traveling on ice-covered roads, overpasses, and bridges if at all possible.
  • If you are stranded, it is safest to stay in your car.

When the weather is extremely cold, and especially if there are high winds, try to stay indoors. Make any trips outside as brief as possible, and remember these tips below to protect your health and safety.

Dress Warmly and Stay Dry

Adults and children should wear:

  • a hat
  • a scarf or knit mask to cover face and mouth
  • sleeves that are snug at the wrist
  • mittens (they are warmer than gloves)
  • water-resistant coat and boots
  • several layers of loose-fitting clothing

Be sure the outer layer of your clothing is tightly woven, preferably wind resistant, to reduce body-heat loss caused by wind. Wool, silk, or polypropylene inner layers of clothing will hold more body heat than cotton. Stay dry—wet clothing chills the body rapidly. Excess perspiration will increase heat loss, so remove extra layers of clothing whenever you feel too warm. Also, avoid getting gasoline or alcohol on your skin while de-icing and fueling your car or using a snow blower. These materials in contact with the skin greatly increase heat loss from the body. Do not ignore shivering. It’s an important first sign that the body is losing heat. Persistent shivering is a signal to return indoors.

Avoid Frostbite and Hypothermia

When exposed to cold temperatures, your body begins to lose heat faster than it can be produced. Prolonged exposure to cold will eventually use up your body’s stored energy. The result is hypothermia, or abnormally low body temperature. Body temperature that is too low affects the brain, making the victim unable to think clearly or move well. This makes hypothermia particularly dangerous because a person may not know it is happening and won’t be able to do anything about it.

Hypothermia is most likely at very cold temperatures, but it can occur even at cool temperatures (above 40°F) if a person becomes chilled from rain, sweat, or submersion in cold water.

Frostbite is an injury to the body that is caused by freezing. Frostbite causes a loss of feeling and color in affected areas. It most often affects the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers, or toes. Frostbite can permanently damage the body, and severe cases can lead to amputation. The risk of frostbite is increased in people with reduced blood circulation and among people who are not dressed properly for extremely cold temperatures.

For more information about frostbite and hypothermia, see Stay Safe & Healthy.

Avoid Exertion

Cold weather puts an extra strain on the heart. If you have heart disease or high blood pressure, follow your doctor’s advice about shoveling snow or performing other hard work in the cold. Otherwise, if you have to do heavy outdoor chores, dress warmly and work slowly. Remember, your body is already working hard just to stay warm, so don’t overdo it.

Understand Wind Chill

The Wind Chill index is the temperature your body feels when the air temperature is combined with the wind speed. It is based on the rate of heat loss from exposed skin caused by the effects of wind and cold. As the speed of the wind increases, it can carry heat away from your body much more quickly, causing skin temperature to drop. When there are high winds, serious weather-related health problems are more likely, even when temperatures are only cool.

The Wind Chill Chart below shows the difference between actual air temperature and perceived temperature, and amount of time until frostbite occurs.

Avoid Ice

Walking on ice is extremely dangerous. Many cold-weather injuries result from falls on ice-covered sidewalks, steps, driveways, and porches. Keep your steps and walkways as free of ice as possible by using rock salt or another chemical de-icing compound. Sand may also be used on walkways to reduce the risk of slipping.

Be Safe During Recreation

Notify friends and family where you will be before you go hiking, camping, or skiing. Do not leave areas of the skin exposed to the cold. Avoid perspiring or becoming overtired. Be prepared to take emergency shelter. Pack dry clothing, a two-wave radio, waterproof matches and paraffin fire starters with you. Do not use alcohol and other mood altering substances, and avoid caffeinated beverages. Avoid walking on ice or getting wet. Carefully watch for signs of cold-weather health problems.

Be Cautious About Travel

  • Listen for radio or television reports of travel advisories issued by the National Weather Service.
  • Do not travel in low visibility conditions.
  • Avoid traveling on ice-covered roads, overpasses, and bridges if at all possible.
  • If you must travel by car, use tire chains and take a mobile phone with you.
  • If you must travel, let someone know your destination and when you expect to arrive. Ask them to notify authorities if you are late.
  • Check and restock the winter emergency supplies in your car before you leave.
  • Never pour water on your windshield to remove ice or snow; shattering may occur.
  • Don’t rely on a car to provide sufficient heat; the car may break down.
  • Always carry additional warm clothing appropriate for the winter conditions.

What to Do if You Get Stranded

Staying in your vehicle when stranded is often the safest choice if winter storms create poor visibility or if roadways are ice covered. These steps will increase your safety when stranded:

  • Tie a brightly colored cloth to the antenna as a signal to rescuers and raise the hood of the car (if it is not snowing).
  • Move anything you need from the trunk into the passenger area.
  • Wrap your entire body, including your head, in extra clothing, blankets, or newspapers.
  • Stay awake. You will be less vulnerable to cold-related health problems.
  • Run the motor (and heater) for about 10 minutes per hour, opening one window slightly to let in air. Make sure that snow is not blocking the exhaust pipe—this will reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • As you sit, keep moving your arms and legs to improve your circulation and stay warmer.
  • Do not eat unmelted snow because it will lower your body temperature.
  • Huddle with other people for warmth.

Pet Safety

Another concern for many in these cold temperatures is the safety of their pets.

Animal Friends issued a warning urging pet owners to keep animals safe from hypothermia and frostbite during the cold weather.

Despite having fur coats, domesticated animals like dogs, cats and rabbits depend on humans for protection from the elements.

"The community should know that outdoor pets cannot withstand freezing temperatures. Animals have been known to die from exposure and for their own protection, they should be brought indoors immediately," said Kathy Hecker, humane investigations officer for Animal Friends.

Consider the following cold weather safety tips for pets:

  • Do not leave pets unattended when the temperature drops below freezing (32 degrees Fahrenheit)Low temperatures, winds and precipitation can lead to illness, hypothermia and death. Dogs, cats, rabbits or any domesticated pet can suffer from frostbite in a matter of minutes, mainly on feet, ears and tails.
  • Signs of hypothermia include: weak pulse, dilated pupils, decreased heart rate, extreme shivering, pale or blue mucus membranes, stupor and unconsciousness. If you believe your pet is suffering from hypothermia, call your veterinarian immediately.
  • The salt and other chemicals used to melt snow and ice can irritate the pads of your pet's feet. Wipe paws with a damp towel before your pet licks them and irritates his/her mouth.
  • Antifreeze is a deadly poison, but it has a sweet taste that may attract animals and children. Wipe up spills and store antifreeze out of reach.
  • Warm engines in parked cars attract cats and small wildlife, who may crawl up under the hood. To avoid injuring any hidden animals, bang on your car's hood to scare them away before starting your engine.
  • Routinely check your pet's water dish to make certain the water is fresh and unfrozen. Use plastic bowls rather than metal; when the temperature is low, your pet's tongue can stick and freeze to metal.
  • If your dog is sensitive to the cold due to age, illness or breed type (small or short-haired), take them outdoors only long enough to relieve themselves. Puppies do not tolerate cold as well as adult dogs.
  • Feral and outdoor cats need to stay warm as well! Because blankets, towels and pillows can get wet and freeze, straw is the best insulation against the cold and weather.

 

Information provided by http://www.cdc.gov

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