This weekend’s frigid weather brings a list of warnings and tips for Christmas shoppers, skiers, travelers and sports fans.
Temperatures are far below norms. Saturday’s low will flirt with zero, far colder than the historical averages of 28 degrees to 33 degrees for early December, according to the National Weather Service.
Here are some tips for staying safe and healthy in the extreme cold, from the Spokane Regional Health District and the Spokane Department of Emergency management:
• Wear several layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing rather than one layer of heavy clothing. Wear mittens rather than gloves. Wear a hat and cover your mouth with a scarf.
• Watch for signs of frostbite: white or grayish-yellow skin area, skin that feels unusually firm or waxy or numb.
• Watch for signs of hypothermia: slurred speech, disorientation, uncontrollable shivering, stumbling or drowsiness.
• If you get trapped outside, get out of the wind and stay dry.
• Keep an emergency kit in your vehicle, including a three-day supply of water and nonperishable food, a blanket or sleeping bag for each passenger, a flashlight, cellphone, shovel, a bag of sand or cat litter, jumper cables, flares, a coffee can with a lid and toilet paper.
• If you are stranded in your vehicle, stay inside the car. Use a bright distress flag or hazard lights to draw attention to your vehicle. At night, keep the dome light on so rescue crews can see you.
When it is this cold, “pets should not be outside for any length of time. It’s just too cold,” said Nancy Hill, director of the Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service.
There have been 28 calls to check on animals. Most are for dogs left outside with frozen water dishes and no shelter.
Doghouses should be large enough for the animal to be able to stand up and turn around and should be up off the ground, SCRAPS recommends. Bedding should be changed regularly. Heated water dishes should be used.
The Spokane Police Department recently responded to three reports of vehicles stolen that had been left running while unattended.
Officer Teresa Fuller said residents can receive a $124 ticket for leaving an unattended car running on the street, even if it is locked. Cars left running on private property are not subject to a ticket.
But, “Criminals don’t care if your car is in your driveway or on the road,” Spokane County sheriff’s Deputy Craig Chamberlin said.
Drivers should stay with their vehicles while warming them up, Fuller said.
Chamberlin said this time of year, neighbors should keep an eye on any vacant or foreclosed homes. While the problem lately has been thieves stealing copper wire, he said there may also be break-ins by prospective squatters.
Warming centers for the homeless have been activated in the city. The centers are not equipped for long-term lodging but can help shelter people from the elements during extreme weather conditions. They are only activated when temperatures are expected to drop to 20 degrees or lower.
On such nights, which are expected through Tuesday, the centers open at 8 p.m. through 7 a.m. at the following locations: the Salvation Army Community Center, 221 E. Nora Ave., for single adult men; the Salvation Army Family Resource Center, 204 E. Indiana Ave., for families with children and couples; as of Thursday evening, Hope House Shelter, 111 W. Third Ave., serving single women, had beds available.
Assistant Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer said electrical heaters have been known to start house fires and offered tips to use them safely.
• Read the manufacturer’s instructions and warning labels.
• Never leave an operating heater unattended. Unplug all heaters when they are not in use. Never use a heater with a damaged cord.
• Check the outlet for a secure outlet/plug fit. If the plug doesn’t fit snugly, or if it becomes very hot, the outlet may need to be replaced.
• Never use a power strip or extension cord to power your heater.
• Never plug any other electrical device into the same outlet as your heater.
• String the included power cord over any rug or carpeting. Don’t place anything on top of the cord.
• Keep all combustible materials at least three feet away from the heater, such as furniture, pillows, bedding, papers, clothes, curtains, paint, gas cans and matches.
• Unless it was designed for outdoor use or in bathrooms, don’t use it in wet or damp areas.
• Place all heaters on level, flat surfaces.
• Keep pets and children away from heaters and never use in a child’s room without an adult present at all times.
“We are starting to see frozen pipes,” said Ray Mallory, a plumber with Roto-Rooter Plumbers.
Pipes on exterior walls are at risk of freezing. Mallory recommends placing something on the outside of the building such as plastic tents or straw bales. Residents should open cabinet doors in front of sink pipes and close vents next to crawl spaces.
While keeping the water running at a trickle has been known to keep pipes from freezing, Mallory said residents should only do this while they are at home to supervise. Drains can freeze and can cause water damage to the home.
EWU football game
The Eastern Washington University Eagles play South Dakota State University today at 1 p.m. in Cheney.
The matchup is an NCAA-sanctioned game, so there will be no beer garden. That area will be stocked with heaters. At halftime, fans who wish to warm up can go to Reese Court next door to Roos Field.
Players will have heaters on the sidelines.
“Obviously, we hope people take precautions,” athletic director Bill Chaves said, and fans should dress appropriately.
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