Lawrence M. Walsh
WILL COUNTY - As temperatures plummet and a prolonged deep freeze is anticipated, Will County Executive Larry Walsh encourages residents to follow these tips and utilize local warming centers if necessary. A complete list of warming shelters is listed on the home page of the Will County Emergency Management Agency’s website at www.willcountyema.org. Since many of these locations are open upon request, residents should contact the shelter to ensure availability.
“I urge any resident who is in need to use these warming centers around the county,” Walsh said. “By using these centers and other common sense practices, our residents can protect themselves and their family from the dangers of these harsh temperatures.”
Risks include hypothermia illnesses brought on by exposure to winter winds and cold can be fatal if treatment is lacking. Hypothermia usually occurs when the body temperature drops below 95 degrees. Seniors and the very young are most susceptible, but anyone is a susceptible to these extreme temperatures. Symptoms include: shivering, drowsiness, slurred speech, hallucinations and shallow breathing. Seek medical attention immediately if these symptoms occur.
Be cognizant of the potential risks posed by wind chill. For example, an air temperature of 20 degrees F feels like -10 F on exposed skin if the wind is blowing at 20 miles per hour.
Frostbite is another concern. Frostbitten skin is whitish, stiff, and numb, but not necessarily painful. Children may be especially susceptible because they can become so occupied with play that they tend to ignore physical symptoms. Do not rub frostbitten skin because further friction may increase the damage and slow recovery. Treat frostbitten skin with warm water for 20-to-40 minutes and seek medical attention immediately.
You should routinely avoid shoveling snow unless you are in good physical condition. If you find it difficult to breathe while shoveling, quit immediately and go indoors where it’s warm. Remember that overexertion can cause a heart attack.
Snowmobiling and skating can be great winter activities, but remember to use common sense. If you plan to skate on a lake or pond, remember that the ice should have a uniform thickness of at least 4 inches and never skate alone.
You should never use a snowmobile on lakes or rivers without knowing the ice conditions. To be safe, there should be eight inches of clear ice. Also remember that heavy or drifting snow can obscure fences, tree stumps and uneven ground.