As a cold spell moves hits the Chicago area this weekend, state officials are reminding residents of ways to stay safe and prepared amid the freezing temperatures.
State officials warned that the expected low temperatures could be the coldest conditions the area has experienced since the polar vortex occurred in January 2019.
Travel should be limited, officials said, but to call ahead of time to destinations if travel is necessary, such as to receive a coronavirus vaccination or test.
Here are some tips to stay safe amid the cold:
How Should I Avoid Frostbite?
Frostbite could set in on exposed skin in as little as 15 minutes, officials said. The face, ears, hands and feet tend to be the most commonly impacted.
According to a release, frostbite skin is whitish and stiff, and tends to feel numb rather than painful.
In order to treat frostbite, officials advised to warm the affected part of the body gradually before seeking medical attention.
"Wrap the frostbitten area in blankets, sweaters, coats, etc. and seek medical attention immediately," a release said.
Officials warned to not rub frostbitten areas of the skin because the friction can damage the tissue.
How Do I Know If I Have Hypothermia?
Hypothermia is caused by a drop in body temperature to 95 degrees or less, which can become deadly, officials said.
Signs of hypothermia include:
- Slurred speech
- Weak pulse
- Slow heartbeat
- Bright red, cold skin in infants
According to a release, infants and the elderly are more at risk of hypothermia, which should not be treated at home. Individuals suspected to have the condition should be treated at a hospital.
How Should I Dress For the Cold?
Though officials advised people in the Chicago area stay indoors during the cold, these are some ways to keep warm should residents need to go outside, according to a release:
- Wear several layers of lightweight clothing rather than one or two heavy garments because the air between the layers of clothing acts as an insulation
- Cover your head because you lose nearly 50% of body heat through the head
- Wear mittens rather than fingered gloves
- Wear leg coverings and heavy socks or two pairs of lightweight socks
- Wear waterproof boots or sturdy shoes for maximum traction
- Cover your ears and lower part of your face as these areas or more prone to frostbite
- Cover your mouth with a scarf to protect the lungs from directly inhaling extremely cold air
What Should I Do If I Have to Travel in the Cold?
If travel is necessary in the subzero temperatures this weekend, officials warned of scattered slick spots likely forming on ramps, overpasses, bridges and shaded areas overnight.
“The team at IDOT will be monitoring the roads, treating them as necessary, and assisting motorists as needed,” Acting Illinois Department of Transportation Secretary Omer Osman said. “Please make sure to have the necessary supplies and equipment in your vehicle should you encounter problems, and do not leave your vehicle in the event of a breakdown. Call for help and wait for assistance to arrive.”
Drivers should share the roadways, officials advised, as Illinois law requires drivers to change lanes when approaching police, first responders and broken-down vehicles.
In addition, a release said drivers should slow down when approaching snow plows and maintenance vehicles, giving workers more room to operate.
All vehicles should have an emergency kit equipped with blankets, non-perishable food, boots, extra clothing and other items in case an individual is stranded, Illinois Emergency Management Agency Director Alicia Tate-Nadeau said.
For up to date road conditions, click here.
How Can I Avoid Carbon Monoxide Poisoning When Heating My Home?
Properly heating the home during excessively cold temperatures is necessary during winter months, officials warned.
According to a release, more than 400 people die every year in the U.S. from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning, which is found in fuels from cars, small engines, stoves, lanterns, grills, fireplaces, gas ranges or furnaces.
Here are some tips to avoid CO buildup:
- Never use a generator inside the home, basement or garage
- Do not use a stove or oven as a home heating source
- If using a space heater inside the home, keep it at least three feet from flammable items such as curtains, blankets and couches
Signs of CO poisoning include: headache, dizziness, weakness, upset stomach, vomiting, chest pain and confusion, a release said.
What If I Am Alone?
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker asked residents to check on elderly neighbors in the coming days who might be in need of assistance.
According to data from the state, 46% of individuals rely on people in their neighborhood for assistance within the first 72 hours of an emergency.
State officials advised people to check in with neighbors over the weekend either asking for or offering help.
“There are dangerous health conditions that can occur specifically in severe winter weather,” Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said. “It’s important to watch for signs of extreme cold. Knowing the warning signs of dangerously cold weather and the health conditions they can cause can help you stay safe and healthy.”
The artic cold temperatures hitting the Chicago area aren't going to let up anytime soon, and could become the longest stretch of such February temperatures the city has ever seen.
Highs Saturday are set to only reach between 8 and 12 degrees with wind chill readings well below zero. Overnight lows are expected to drop near zero, with wind chill readings between -10 and -20 degrees.
Sunday will be equally as cold, with highs in the single digits and wind chills well below zero.
Overnight lows range from 0 to 5 degrees below zero, with locations closer to the lake likely staying above 0, and wind chills between -5and -15 degrees.
The bitter blast is set to continue at least through the first part of the work week.
According to NBC 5 Storm Team meteorologists, current forecasts show the area staying at 18 degrees or below for nine straight days. The last time that happened for such a long stretch was in February 2007, data shows.
If the temps hold for 10 straight days, it would be the first time on record O'Hare Airport recorded 10 straight days of such temps in February.
Should it continue for 12 straight days, it would tie for the longest very cold stretch since 1958.