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Braving a rare cold spell

Temperatures coldest in two years

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013 8:07 a.m. CDT

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This cold snap might seem like torture to some, especially on the heels of a couple of especially mild winter months.

The National Weather Service predicted temperatures in the single digits for Morris Tuesday and Wednesday nights, with wind chills below zero.

Daytime temps aren’t even expected to rise above the freezing point until next Monday.

While one was driving around town Tuesday, few people could be seen outside exercising or walking dogs, and with the lack of snow, there’s been no need to go out even to clear the driveway this season.

Some in the area, though, did have to buck up and head out to work outdoors.

Isaac Thompson, a Morris Community High School senior, walked his paper route Tuesday after school, as usual. It takes him about an hour to hit all 41 of his houses, and he was pretty cold by the end of it.

“It was really cold out there,” he said. “I should have put on snow pants. It took my legs about a half hour to warm up after I got home.

Isaac said he normally doesn’t mind the cooler weather, but these temperatures were just a bit too cold.

Sandy Barbier, a retired Saratoga School teacher, had to be outside for around four hours Tuesday to take care of the animals on her rural Ottawa farm.

“My eyelashes kept freezing together,” she said.

Barbier went out at around seven in the morning to fill the water tanks and do other chores. One of the tanks was frozen over, and she had to break the ice.

A propane water heater had broken, she said.

Barbier knows how to dress for the weather, and she wore several layers, her coveralls, scarves over her face, winter Muck boots with wool socks underneath, hand warmers in her gloves, and “my long red union suit.”

She also wore her Oakley glasses for eye protection, but they kept fogging up. When she took them off, her lashes froze.

She was fine, though, as were her sheep and horses and working dogs, one of which sleeps cuddled up with the sheep at night.

“They were running around and happy today,” she said.

It’s not known whether the city of Morris public workers were running around and happy, but they were outside yesterday, too, in the “junk truck” and the chipper, according to Public Works Director Jim Gretencord.

“They dress for it,” Gretencord said. “It’s just part of the job.”

Other public works employees worked inside.

“Unless we have an emergency,” he said, “we try to stay inside on days like this, for the most part.”

Water main or sewer breaks sometimes have the staff out in the most frigid weather, Gretencord said, even at nighttime, but fortunately they had no such bad luck Tuesday.

Dr. Robert Marino, medical director of Immediate Care and Occupational Medicine at Morris Hospital & Healthcare Centers, said most of us probably got a little spoiled with two mild winters in a row and that we should remember to take these frigid temperatures seriously.

“This cold weather can be a killer,” he said. “This is danger weather. . . If you don’t need to go out, then plain and simple, don’t.”

Very young children and the elderly especially should not venture outside.

“They are so susceptible to the cold,” he said.

Marino said exposed skin can get frostbite in as little as 10 minutes in the temperatures the area has been having this week. Especially vulnerable are ears, the nose, and fingers and toes. Symptoms of frostbite include a blanching of the skin (turning pale) then a feeling that the body part is first very cold, then very painful.

Seek medical attention if you believe you have frostbite, he advised, and do not use hot water to warm the areas up.

And don’t take your buddy’s advice to have a shot of alcohol before going out in the cold. That could make things much worse.

“Alcohol actually lowers the body temperature,” Marino said.

He also recommends everyone keep a winter emergency kit in their car with a couple of blankets and fluids to hydrate if necessary. A charged cell phone is necessary, too, as is a full tank of gas.

And consider making sure that car is in good shape for the winter, too, since getting stranded could be life-threatening.

Matt Hathorn, service advisor at Greenway GMC Pontiac Oldsmobile in Morris, said to make sure the battery in your vehicle is good.

“Have it tested,” he said. “Batteries get weak in the cold weather. And have your coolant checked because it does go bad.”

Hathorn also recommended vehicle owners have their tires checked for tread and for air pressure in the winter months to make sure they have a tight grip on the road.

He also reminded people not to yank hard on their door handles, in case they are frozen. He repairs many car door handles during the winter season. It’s good to carry a lock deicer with you, too, he said, and maybe an aerosol can of deicer to spray in the edges of the car door in case the door itself gets frozen closed.

Make sure your window washer fluid is a winter blend, too, so it won’t ice up on the windshield or crack the tank, he added, and some people like to use winter wiper blades, which help decrease the ice build-up on the blades.

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