How much longer do we have to wait for Punxsutawney Phil’s prediction of an early spring?  How many more weeks did you say?  How on earth our friends up north cope with this cold weather is a wonder.  Here in North Central Texas, one would think we have been holed up all winter!  “Cabin Fever” was spreading like wildfire last week, although it lasted only about four days.  However, we have been blasted by another round of cold air today.  It’s 15°, with very strong winds, as this is being written. 

Arctic fronts have hit many areas of the United States, bringing in colder weather than normal.  Many businesses and schools have not been able to open because of the ice and impassable roads.  Things that we take for granted – going to the grocery store or pharmacy – have been delayed.  Many services have been cancelled, temporarily, such as Meals on Wheels, deliveries of medicines, food to grocers, trash pickups, and deliveries of newspapers to rural areas.  Airline flights have been cancelled or delayed.   Physicians and hospitals report seeing more injuries than usual, due to heart attacks suffered from persons shoveling snow, persons falling off their roofs, snow-blower accidents, and broken bones from falls.  The American Red Cross reported that between January 1st and February 1st they missed out on more than 19,000 blood donations that had been expected.  Blood drives at schools, businesses and community events had been called off due to bad weather.  

In the past, we have featured articles about being prepared for winter, such as winterizing both you and your vehicle, things to carry on trips, and being prepared to leave early in case your drive takes longer because of inclement weather conditions.  Hearing stories this past week of persons who were stranded in their cars for hours made me realize how truly important it is to have your car packed with extra food, water, blankets, flashlight, cell phone, and other necessities.   There are many extra things that can help keep ones’ body warm: earmuffs, gloves, hats or toboggans, gloves, and even warming packs that you can put in your pocket, in addition to layering clothing with a water-repellent coat on top.  

Here is some information about winter deaths resulting from blizzards, from the United States Search and Rescue Task Force: 

Related to ice and snow:

  •          About 70% occur in automobiles.
  •          About 25% are caught out in a storm.
  •          The majority are males over 40 years of age.

      Related to exposure to cold:

  •         50% are people over 60 years of age.
  •         Over 75% are males.
  •         20% occur in homes. 

Actual harm to persons depends on specific situations, such as power outages.  Here is some information from one of our previous articles concerning loss of power:  If you live where there is a threat of storms that continue for more than one day, and might cause power failure, here are some ideas to help you stay warm and safe:

  •          Close off rooms to parts of the house that you don’t need to use.
  •          Do not be short of staples such as food and water.  Stock high-energy food that doesn’t require cooking or refrigeration.
  •          Have a flashlight and extra batteries.
  •          Keep extra medicine and baby supplies.
  •          A battery-powered NOAA weather radio can keep you informed of the situation.
  •          Have a first aid kit.
  •          Be sure you have extra heating fuel, as deliverers may not be able to come to your home for days.
  •          Winterize your home by caulking and weather stripping doors and windows, insulating walls and attics and installing storm windows.  If necessary,    cover windows with plastic.
  •          Fireplaces, wood stoves, or space heaters are excellent alternative energy sources, but be sure your house has proper ventilation. 

Try to stay warm and safe.  When the weather forecasters advise you to stay home unless you absolutely have to get out, pay attention to their warnings.  Let’s hope Phil’s weather forecast is right!