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When below-freezing temperatures strike: Caring for yourself, your home and your vehicle


Temperatures are dropping to dangerously low levels this week. And by dangerously low, we’re talking a low of -4 degrees on Tuesday, a low of 5 degrees on Wednesday, and snow predicted for Thursday.

With some of the coldest temperatures of the season ahead, we looked at how you can protect yourself, your vehicle and your home.

Home

When the temperature drops to well below freezing and ice expands, pipes are at risk of bursting. Exposed pipes aren’t the only ones at risk, though. Pipes in places that aren’t properly heated, such as basements, are at risk and should be properly insulated.

Let water drip at night from your faucets. Open cabinet doors to allow more heat to circulate to uninsulated pipes under a sink or near an outer wall.

Remember to drain and shut off outdoor water systems.

Keep your home’s heat on, and no lower than 55 degrees. Though it may be tempting to save on utility bills, keeping your home consistently warm will prevent pipes from freezing.

If you are planning to be away, have someone check on your house each day to ensure the heat is still on and everything is in good shape.

In case your pipes do freeze, make sure you know how to shut off the water. Use gentle heat with a tool such as a hair dryer to thaw a pipe; never use an open flame to thaw a pipe and beware of electric shock around water.

Be sure your home has a working carbon monoxide detector.

If your home’s heat goes out, close doors to rooms you do not need to use in order to conserve heat.

If using a space heater, abide by the “3-feet rule.” Any flammable items, such as rugs, clothing, bedding or curtains, should be at least 3 feet away from the heater. Remember to place the heater on a stable, hard, non-flammable surface and always turn it off before leaving the house.

Vehicle

Don’t forget about giving your vehicle the proper attention it needs in harsh winter weather. Cars may have trouble turning over, and may be at greater risk of breaking down. If you don’t have a garage, be sure to have your antifreeze levels, tire pressure, heater/defroster and battery checked.

After starting your car, be sure to allow time for it to heat up before driving away. Be sure to never leave a running car unattended.

Always be prepared for the worst-case scenario. Keep an ice scraper, thick blanket, socks and gloves/hat/scarf in your vehicle. You never know when you could be stranded on the side of the road and need some extra layers.

Yourself and your loved ones

When temperatures dip dangerously low, be sure to dress overly warm. Wear thin, warm, loose layers [fleece or “puffy” down material is best] and invest in good gloves, scarves, hats and socks. Any exposed skin to these bitter-cold temperatures even for a short time can be dangerous.

Pets and elderly people may need extra care and attention in these weather conditions. Check on your elderly loved ones and keep your pets inside.

Another group of people who could use support this time of year is the homeless. If you see someone in the area who needs shelter, call the St. Louis County non-emergency hotline [(636) 529-8210] or the Salvation Army [(314) 423-7770]. The two entities have teamed up to open a 24-hour warming shelter in St. Louis County at 10740 Page Avenue. It is open seven days a week.

Lastly, familiarize yourself with government terms for winter weather emergencies:

Freezing Rain is rain that freezes when it hits the ground, creating a coating of ice.

Sleet is rain that turns to ice before reaching the ground. Sleet also causes moisture on roads to freeze and become slick.

A Winter Weather Advisory is issued when winter weather conditions are expected to cause significant inconveniences and may be hazardous.

A Frost or Freeze Warning means below-freezing temperatures are expected.

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