Surviving the coming deep freeze

  • By Kaitlyn Speer
    Staff Writer
January 3, 2014
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Jim McNutt / Observer-Reporter
Donna Myers of Canonsburg appears more affected by the bitter cold than her children, from left, Olivia, 8, and Sam, 11, as she keeps her face warm with her scarf in the parking lot at Tanger Outlets in South Strabane Township Friday. Order a Print
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Katie Roupe / Observer-Reporter
Case manager Paul Smith pulls a mattress into the sanctuary Friday at Washington City Mission. The mission will place more mattresses to host homeless people as the cold temperatures bring more to the shelter. Order a Print
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Jim McNutt / Observer-Reporter
Hewitt Avenue, just off Jefferson Avenue in Canton Township, was covered with snow Friday morning. Order a Print

National Weather Service meteorologist Lee Hendricks knows when it’s time to bring his dog in from the cold.

Gracie Lou, his 75-pound bulldog, has short fur, and when the weather hits a certain temperature, he knows it’s time to get her in the house. Hendricks knows the cold weather isn’t good for pets, and more importantly, he knows it isn’t good for humans.

“In this kind of weather, it doesn’t take long for problems (to occur),” he said.

While the weather this weekend should be warmer than the past few days, once Monday hits, temperatures will drop dramatically and wind chills will be below zero.

“(It) will be around 15 degrees by Monday morning, falling to 5 above by rush hour in the afternoon,” he said.

The wind chill should be minus-15, and Monday night temperatures will drop even lower. By Tuesday morning, the high is forecasted to be about zero, and there will be wind chills as low as minus-35.

While there will not be much in the way of snow, Hendricks said the combination of cold temperatures and wind is cause for concern.

“(You) always have to dress in layers,” he said, “(and) minimize the amount of exposed skin. If you tend to do a lot of driving, you should have an emergency kit. … If you’re in heavily rural areas, make sure your phone is charged.”

In terms of a person’s car, Hendricks recommends not letting a gas tank get low. Also make sure to check the antifreeze and the car battery. A number of auto parts stores will do free checks on batteries, which can be lose power in cold temperatures.

AAA also has a few recommendations for motorists.

“When you’re driving (in snow), it’s much different than driving on a dry highway,” AAA spokeswoman Bevi Powell said. “Cut your speed significantly. You want to have enough cushion between you and the cars around you, so you can react if there’s a problem. Go easy on the gas and brakes, (and) avoid any distractions such as working with a GPS or a cell phone.”

With low temperatures and bitter wind chill on the horizon, heating contractors like McVehil Plumbing & Heating expect to be busy.

Mark Pacilla, McVehil president, said preparedness is key in the winter. “(Your furnace) is going to work harder and be stressed,” he said. “Make sure it’s serviced properly and the parts are working right. You have to make sure all of the parts are working to their specifications.”

If the furnace turns off in the house, do not panic. First, make sure the electric is on.

“One lady … their grandkid turned the switch on the side of the furnace,” Pacilla said.

If that is not the problem, call a repair service to take a look at the furnace.

“You need to have someone you trust to make sure they maintain their equipment,” Pacilla said. “Get it inspected. Just like an inspection with your car. You want to make sure (it’s) safe, efficient and working to the best of its abilities.”

Anthony Pacilla, the operations manager at McVehil, reminded people that outdoor water pipes need to be insulated.

“Insulation helps prevent it from freezing,” he said, “but does not completely stop it. Insulation helps slow it down.”

But some people are not fortunate enough to have a home, or even a warm place, to go to during the winter weather. For the homeless, the Washington City Mission uses what it calls a “cold weather policy.”

From Oct. 15 to April 15, house manager Keith Groves said, “We bring in as many as we can bring in. We get them showered, cleaned up, and they eat supper.”

The mission also will wash clothes and provide breakfast.

The mission averages between nine and 15 people housed on mattresses in its chapel overnight, but has had as many as 23.

“As cold as it’s getting, we’ll probably get back up to 23,” Groves added.



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