CARBONDALE — As a deep cold settled in the region and shows no signs of leaving at least for the next week, there are several factors to keep in mind in terms of safety.
According to Friday’s National Weather Service six-day forecast, temperatures are not supposed to peak above freezing before Thursday and lows are forecast to dip as low as zero degrees.
According to a special weather statement from the National Weather Service office in Paducah, dangerously cold wind chill temperatures are forecast Saturday through Monday night, with wind chills from zero to 15 below zero will be common. However, in Southern Illinois, there was no precipitation expected to come with the frigid temperatures.
Terril Kaufmann, assistant fire chief for the Carbondale Fire Department, said as people try to heat their homes, there can be an added fire risk — especially with space heaters.
“This time of the year, if they are using space heaters or anything, keeping them spaced away from ignitable materials and making sure they are plugged in to not extension cords, but outlets, so they don’t overheat,” he said. This includes things like bedding, blankets and furniture among other potentially combustible items. He said this goes for any type of heater, from those heated by a light bulb to those powered by natural gas.
“Anything that puts off heat you definitely want to make sure there’s room around it,” Kaufmann said.
There were other methods of heating the house he warned against as well — namely using an open stove, as this can increase the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
For those who may not have access to a warm space this next week — namely the housing insecure — Patty Mullen, executive director of Good Samaritan House in Carbondale, said they will be lifting some of their restrictions as the mercury drops.
“When the weather dips down below freezing, we lift our policy on zero tolerance for drugs and alcohol,” she said. She said they will do their best to help anyone who comes to the door.
“Even if all our beds are full, we have cots and roll-away beds. We will put people where we can to make sure they are out of the weather,” Mullen said.
For those who who must go outside for prolonged periods of time, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends keeping in mind the body parts that are the most at risk for frostbite — the nose, ears, toes, cheeks, chin and fingers.
For those who must keep their animals outside, Jackson County’s Animal Control officer, Lloyd Nelson, said there are a few things that can be done to keep them safe. He said to make sure the animal has fresh water at least once, preferably twice, a day. Keep fresh straw in kennels and keep a shelter for the animal that is big enough for the animal, but not too big as it needs to be able to retain heat. Nelson also said creating a wind barrier on the north side of the pen is a good thing, too.
Nelson and Kaufmann both said ice is something to keep an eye on. Kaufmann said despite the recent cold temperatures, ponds still are not safe to walk on. Nelson said people should keep an eye on their pets — he said dogs can chase other animals out onto the ice and fall through. He said regularly animals are found under ice or during spring thaws, frozen.
Kaufmann said while they do not want to have to use it, the city is prepared with ice rescue training and equipment should the need arise.