(UNDATED) – State officials urge Hoosiers to take the necessary precautions this week and prepare for wind chills that could reach as low as -40 degrees in some parts of Indiana.
The arctic blast expected overnight Tuesday into Wednesday could be the coldest system to move through Indianapolis in years. Such frigid temperatures can present a variety of challenges and dangers to residents, although many are preventable by Hoosiers taking extra steps both inside and outside of their home.
Local emergency crews are preparing for the weather event, and IDHS stands ready to assist if local resources are overwhelmed. The State Emergency Operations Center will continually communicate with Indiana counties to assist with resources and activate the EOC if necessary. Follow the local news media to learn of any school or activity cancellations.
Indiana 211 is tracking warming centers as counties across the state prepare for the polar vortex. Citizens looking for warming centers can call 2-1-1 or visit the website. Citizens and local officials are asked to notify Indiana 211 of warming centers available in their area.
The Indiana Department of Homeland Security (IDHS) and the Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) provide the following information to help residents protect themselves and their property.
More information and safety tips are available at GetPrepared.in.gov.
If you have to leave your home
Dress in layers: “Extreme cold and wind chill can cause serious damage or even death in a matter of minutes,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Kris Box, FACOG. “Hoosiers can protect themselves by staying indoors, dressing appropriately if they do have to go out and knowing the signs of frostbite and hypothermia so that they can get treatment quickly if they do occur.”
Frostbite is a bodily injury caused by freezing that results in loss of feeling and color in affected areas. Damage can be permanent, and severe cases can lead to amputation. The nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers or toes are especially vulnerable. People who have poor blood circulation or are not properly dressed for extreme cold are at greatest risk for frostbite. Hypothermia occurs when the body temperature falls below 95 degrees.
Signs of frostbite and hypothermia:
- White, grayish-yellow skin
- Skin that feels unusually firm or waxy
- Fumbling hands
- Slurred speech
Pay attention to your body: “Winter weather activities also places particular stress on your heart, particularly when doing strenuous activities like shoveling your snow or outside in the cold,” said Dr. Michael Kaufmann, State EMS Medical Director. View more tips from Dr. Kaufmann.
Pack a winter car kit: If you have to leave, be sure your vehicle is equipped with a winter car kit that could save your life if stranded along the road. Blankets and extra clothing are essential, but other important items to remember are jumper cables, phone chargers, first aid kit, ice scraper, and a flashlight.
Check road conditions before you leave: IDHS hosts a County Travel Advisory Map. Each county reports its current travel conditions, and the county EMA works with local government officials to update changes to travel status when appropriate.
Protecting your home
- Use caution with alternative heating sources: Indiana State Fire Marshal Jim Greeson urges residents to use extreme caution when using alternative heating sources, a major cause of residential fires.
- Appliances such as ovens should never be used for heating because it can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Any alternative heating sources should be at least 3 feet from flammable objects and must be turned off before going to bed or leaving the home.
- Gas fireplaces should have proper ventilation, with a working carbon monoxide detector nearby.
- Protect your pipes from freezing: When possible, insulate water pipes on the outside walls of your home, open cabinet doors, maintain a slow drip through faucets and disconnect exterior water hoses.