As Limestone residents awakened today to their second morning of temperatures in the teens, the National Weather Service office in Huntsville was predicting one more night of frigid weather.

The mercury is expected to reach only 40 today and then plunge once more to 18 overnight.

In the South especially, many residents are caught unprepared for the onslaught of extreme cold.

A special weather advisory warns residents to tend to pipes susceptible to freezing and to bring pets inside.

Another hazard of sudden cold snaps are house fires. Athens Fire Chief Cliff Christopher said his department has been fortunate so far this year in not having to answer a weather-related fire, but the danger increases with the use of alternate heat sources.

“Many people are looking for alternate means to stay warm, especially now with higher fuel prices,” said Christopher. “Whether people are using wood, electrical space heaters or kerosene heaters, they should keep them at least 36 inches from combustible materials. Always follow manufacturers’ directions.”

Christopher said residents should also not wait for cold snaps to make sure their heating units are in good service.

“Central units, especially those with gas packs, need to be serviced,” said Christopher. You’ll have carbon monoxide detectors going off.”

The chief also warned anyone who still has a dry Christmas tree up to either remove it or refrain from lighting it.

A spokeswoman for Don Carter Heating and Cooling said service personnel had been busy all day Wednesday with customers calling with requests for heating unit service.

Justin McMunn, who works at Lowe’s, said he had been selling heating units “galore” Wednesday, and that a salesman on a previous shift also reported that business was brisk in electric, gas and kerosene heaters. McMunn said the store had a good stock remaining.



Pet precautions

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals offers these tips for keeping your pet safe in cold weather:

• Keep indoor cats inside. Bang on your car hood before starting your engine.

• Keep dogs on leashes on snow or ice; make sure they wear ID tags.

• Thoroughly wipe off dog’s legs and stomach when he comes in; he can ingest salt, antifreeze or other chemicals from licking his paws, and paw pads might bleed from snow or encrusted ice.

• Never shave your dog down to the skin; provide a coat or sweater for shorthaired breeds.

• Never leave your dog or cat alone in a car.

• Paper-train puppies.

• Increase food supply.

• Make sure your animal has a warm place to sleep, off the floor, away from drafts, with a blanket or pillow.



Frostbite

While the South is not prone to see a lot of people with frostbite, those who work outside, hunt or fish should take precautions and learn to recognize the condition and learn how to treat it.

According to a Mayo Clinic Web site, a person with frostbite may also be subject to hypothermia. Check for hypothermia and treat those symptoms first.

With frostbite, a person has a hard, pale and cold quality of the skin where it has been exposed. The area is likely to lack sensitivity to touch or have a “pins and needles” sensation, although there may be an aching pain. As the area thaws, the flesh becomes red and very painful.

Hands, feet, nose and ears are the most vulnerable.

• Shelter the victim; remove constricting jewelry and wet clothing.

• If immediate medical help is available, wrap the affected areas in sterile dressings (remember to separate affected fingers and toes) and transport the victim to an emergency department.

• If immediate care is not available, re-warm by immersing the affected areas in warm (never hot) water, or repeatedly apply warm cloths to affected areas for 20 to 30 minutes. The recommended water temperature is 104 to 108 degrees Fahrenheit. Warming is complete when the skin is soft and sensation returns.

• Apply dry, sterile dressing to the frostbitten areas.

• Move thawed areas as little as possible.

• Prevent re-freezing by wrapping the thawed areas and keeping the victim warm. If re-freezing cannot be guaranteed, it may be better to delay the initial re-warming process.

• Do not use direct dry heat (such as a radiator, campfire, heating pad or hair dryer) to thaw the frostbitten areas.

• Do not rub or massage the affected area.

• Do not disturb blisters on frostbitten skin.



Frozen pipes

Michigan State University Extension says if you don’t see a gush of water but just a trickle or nothing after turning on a tap, the pipes are frozen.

Turn off the main water supply; open the taps.

The safest and neatest thawing methods are a hair dryer, heat lamp or household iron. A propane torch or other open flame will heat the pipe too quickly and may cause it to explode. Some people recommend pouring boiling water over rags wrapped around a frozen pipe. The obvious drawback is that this method is messy. Never pour boiling water directly onto a frozen pipe.

When thawing pipes with a heat lamp or hair dryer, always work from an open faucet toward the frozen area. This will keep steam from being trapped by ice and bursting the pipe.

To prevent pipes from freezing in the first place, wrap electrical heating cable around it, one turn every two feet, then cover the pipe with insulation to conserve the heat.

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