The limit is a little different for everyone: that guy from Arizona you went camping with once who put on a parka because the night air dropped below 60 degrees; or the coworker who describes 40 below zero as a point where he can’t tell the difference, just that he’s dying faster.
For many people in the greater Cortland area, this weekend will test that limit.
The National Weather Service at Binghamton has issued a wind-chill warning and predicts lows of negative 7 tonight, with winds gusting to 24 mph. Expect wind chill factors somewhere between minus 25 and ohmigodpartsarefallingoff. Saturday will dawn brighter, but not much warmer; expect a high of 5 degrees, followed by a low Saturday night of negative 7.
The state Office for Aging and Director Greg Olsen warned older people to take steps to stay safe this weekend, but the advice is applicable to anyone with a pulse.
“Winter has always been an important time to check in on family, loved ones, and neighbors to make sure they are safe,” he said. “This kind of outreach is even more important now, during the pandemic, as older adults, persons with disabilities, and the chronically ill face even more extreme levels of social isolation that can make them especially vulnerable to winter safety risks at home.”
Guthrie warned people this week to take care of their skin, because the combination of the cold, dry air and constant washing to avoid spreading COVID-19 can damage skin. Take shorter showers, it advised, and lotion regularly.
Beyond that, don’t expose skin to such bitter cold for very long — those face masks that have been an annoyance for two years now are about to prove their worth in another way.
If you’re outside, watch for frostbite. Symptoms include cold skin and a prickling feeling, followed by numbness and inflamed or discolored skin, reports the Mayo Clinic. As it gets worse, skin may become hard or waxy-looking. You can treat the earliest stages, frostnip, by rewarming. More severe frostbite requires medical attention.
Don’t get wet. Beyond not jumping into a pond, don’t dress so warmly that you perspire. Sweat chills. So dress in layers, the National Weather Service advises. Wear several loose-fitting light layers, rather than one heavy layer. Make sure you have hat, mittens and a mouth covering — balaclavas are back in style.
Remember the pets. Just because they have fur doesn’t mean they don’t get cold. Limit their time outdoors, and make sure they have plenty of food and water.
If you’re traveling, check the tire pressure — the cold can affect it — and make sure your antifreeze is sufficient and your heater and defroster work.
In your house, make sure you know how to shut off the water valves in your house; a power failure can cause pipes to freeze.
If you use a fireplace, wood stove, or portable kerosene heater to stay warm, be sure there is adequate ventilation to the outside, the state Office for Aging advises. Without enough fresh air, carbon monoxide fumes can build up in your home. Never use a natural gas or propane stove or oven to heat your home.
Keep space heaters — electric or kerosene — away from any flammable objects and do not leave them unattended. Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines.
If you supplement your heat with a wood stove or fireplace, now is a good time to test the smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, Olsen said. Replace the batteries if they’re more than a year old.