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Tips To Handle Extreme Cold

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Brian S. Brian S. (Admin)

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While winter is traditionally cold – especially in the northern reaches of the United States – the recent polar vortex is one for the record books. But what can you do to stay warm and safe?

Tips To Handle Extreme Cold

I consider myself at least somewhat hardy in the cold weather. I’ve lived in what is referred to the icebox of America for my entire life and I’ve been through all kinds of weather. It’s different, though, when meteorologists start throwing around terms like “life threatening cold”. That means things are real. Plenty has also been said about how to stay safe and warm during this most recent polar vortex.

Simple logic applies for the most part. Staying safe and warm in extreme cold is something that comes with the territory in the frozen north. If you live in other areas and aren’t accustomed to even occasional bouts of -60º wind chills, you have some catching up to do.

The easiest thing to do is limit your time outdoors. I was in and out multiple times in yesterday’s comparably balmy 8º weather with a fresh blanket of six inches of snow on the ground and it was just fine for me while wearing a sweatshirt over my t-shirt. Of course the sun was out and there was very little wind. That isn’t the case when the windchill hits -60º. When it’s that cold, simply don’t go outside unless you absolutely have to. 

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If you have to go outside in that kind of cold, layers are your friend. Not just a warm jacket. Think warmer – warm boots that you might think are fit for traversing an Arctic sled dog trail are a nice start. Add some nice thick socks and you’ve got some warm feet going. Now, let’s talk about your head.

Maybe a stocking cap akin to something you’d see in Russia isn’t the most fashionable thing in the world but we’re trying to stay warm so if you have one of those or something remotely close to that, put it on. In a pinch, though, a normal stocking cap that can be had for a cool dollar will work just fine. Don’t forget a scarf, too. Wrap that thing up tight and cover your mouth. Breathing in freezing cold air is awful so avoid it at all costs. Now let’s talk about your hands.

Sleek gloves that you can leave on while texting your bestie on your brand new iPhone are worthless. Think thicker when it comes to gloves. You might lose some manual dexterity but it beats losing a few fingers due to frostbite. If you can push the unlock button on your car’s key, that’s really all of the dexterity you need.

Now that you’re possibly inside your car, think about the shape it’s in. When is the last time you replaced the battery? Mine seems to be good for about three years and that’s with parking outside plenty of the time. If your car’s battery is older than three years, best of luck to you. There are a few things you can do to make sure that your car does actually start, though. Park out of the wind to start with. I used to snug mine right up against the front of my single stall garage. Maybe it didn’t actually do anything but it gave me what is probably a false sense of security. 

If your car started, you’re one step closer to staying warm. But what can be done to make sure that your car will start? Beyond the battery that I already mentioned, keep your gas tank as close to full as possible. Stopping at a gas station every other day might seem ridiculous but would you rather be ridiculous or stranded or possibly dead? I’ll take ridiculous, please.

Hopefully after all of that, you made it home. But what can be done to keep your home warm or at least comfortable? If the outside temperature is -35º (like it will get to in Minnesota where I’m currently sitting), your home’s furnace simply won’t keep up – even if your house is stuffed with insulation and your windows are seven panes thick. But you can do a few things to keep your humble abode a bit cozier. When was the last time that you changed your furnace filter? More than a month ago? No bueno. Get to your basement or wherever the furnace is located and replace it – STAT! Done with that? Good. 

Next up is to turn off your programmable thermostat. It seems counterintuitive but working with a steady temperature – in theory – will make your furnace’s job easier. Flip it to the hold setting and likely a degree or two warmer than you typically use. Doing this for a couple days won’t send you to financial ruin. But it will get Arizona dry in your house. So, what can you do to combat the lack of humidity? In all honesty, the best advice I have heard is to have a meal of pasta. 

What?

Seriously. Boiling that water will serve to add at least some humidity into your home’s parched air. Now throw an extra blanket on the bed, leave your bedroom door open to help the warm air to circulate and you’re doing all that you can to stay warm and safe. 

Do you have more tips (either funny or serious)? Add them in the comments below!

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That is COLD!

It doesn't get that cold around my parts but I'm currently adding a few trees around the house (property) to break up the wind. Yeah, yeah ... it may take a few years for them to grow but one needs to start somewhere. 😜

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In central IL we have had air temps of -18 with wind chills of -48!

I lived in Alaska (in the interior not the wanna-be Alaska of Juneau 😂) for two years and when it got to be -30 air temp it was just cold. Of course, we had engine block heaters too and clothes meant for the arctic winter. Oh and did I mention the dark? Dark as night for approx 5-6 months of the year. 

Central IL isn't used to this kind of winter - the kids have now been out of school 13 days

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