Purdue expert: Surviving storms, cold requires preparation

January 3, 2014  


WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Indiana residents should take extra precautions to help ensure their safety and survival as they brace for more snow and continued bitter cold, a Purdue Extension disaster education specialist advises.

Indiana is expected to get more snow over the weekend, adding to what fell earlier in the week. Temperatures are forecast to drop into the double digits below zero Monday (Jan. 6) and Tuesday (Jan. 7), especially in the overnight hours, with wind chills making the temperature feel as low as minus 35 degrees.

"This type of weather can kill in many different ways," said Steve Cain, Extension Disaster Education Network homeland security project director.

He said most injuries and deaths related to severe weather occur among men ages 40 and older.

"This can be due to several reasons, but an important one is heart attacks from straining to remove snow," he said. "Ask yourself if you want to risk a heart attack. Can someone else who is better prepared help remove snow?"

Cain also said most injuries result from vehicle accidents. "Make sure your vehicle is winter-ready, take your time and, most of all, don't go out into the storm if you don't have to."

If a house loses power, it will be important to seek alternative heating to prevent hypothermia and frostbite, Cain said.

"Every year I hear about someone running a generator in their garage thinking that fumes will not go back into the house," he said. "Unfortunately, that isn't true for almost all attached garages."

Cain also offered these other tips:

* If it rains and freezes, look for ice dams built up on roofs that could be dangerous, and avoid areas where ice has built up on trees.

* Remember neighbors, some of whom might not have enough heat or the ability to survive the storm. Reach out to them. "I've also read the devastating stories of people who needed help but couldn't survive the walk to their neighbor's or family's house during the worst of a storm. This often happens to the elderly."

* A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration weather radio, which is widely available and can be inexpensive, is an excellent way to stay in touch with emergency officials.

* Have a winter survival kit that works for you. Include medicines in a travel kit in case you are stranded and a deck of cards or other game to pass the time as you wait.

* If you are caught in a vehicle, authorities suggest running the motor about 10 minutes each hour for heat. Make sure you pack a blanket before traveling. Also make sure there is proper ventilation and that the exhaust pipe is not blocked. Cain remembers taking someone to a shelter after that person's car slid into a ditch. "Her car was running, and the blowing snow had already covered the tailpipe. That was not a safe situation."

* Be visible. If you are running the engine, turn on the dome light. Tie a colored cloth, preferably red, onto the vehicle's exterior.

Purdue Extension provides more information on winter safety and recovery on the EDEN website at https://ag.purdue.edu/extension/eden/Pages/winter.aspx

Writer: Keith Robinson, 765-494-2722, robins89@purdue.edu

Source: Steve Cain, 765-494-8410, cain@purdue.edu 

Ag Communications: (765) 494-2722;
Keith Robinson, robins89@purdue.edu
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