Public Safety

Stay indoors the next few days Iowa, weather service warns

People cross 220th Trail as snow falls during Winterfest in Amana on Saturday, Jan. 26, 2019. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
People cross 220th Trail as snow falls during Winterfest in Amana on Saturday, Jan. 26, 2019. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

“Dangerous, life-threatening” wind chills are expected by midweek in the Corridor, according to the Nation Weather Service in the Quad Cities.

Starting Tuesday, high-velocity winds will drive temperatures far below zero, where they will stay through Thursday morning, the weather service said.

A wind chill warning is in effect from 3 p.m. Tuesday until Thursday morning, with wind chills between minus 30 and minus 60 degrees — the coldest possibly Tuesday night through Wednesday morning.

The weather service is recommending people stay indoors. For those who must venture out, bundle up, wear multiple layers that block wind, and try to limit skin exposure to the cold air to avoid frostbite or hypothermia.

Signs of frostbite include loss of feeling and color around the face, fingers and toes, numbness, white or grayish-yellow skin and firm or waxy skin. Signs of hypothermia include shivering, exhaustion, confusion, fumbling hands, memory loss and slurred speech or drowsiness.

“Think ahead,” said Steve O’Konek, coordinator at Linn County Emergency Management. “Have repair numbers ready and available if the heat or gas should go out. Make sure you have enough food and water in the house and some in your car.

“And make a plan — what would you do if your furnace goes out? Where could you go? What do you do if your car gets stuck? Who can you call?”

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O’Konek said it’s also a good idea to keep an emergency kit in your car that includes blankets, warm clothing, gloves, a hat, water — one gallon per person, per day — and some high-energy bars. It’s also a good to make sure your car has at least a half-tank of gas.

“And, if you get stuck on the side of the road, don’t abandon the vehicle,” he said. “Call for help, alert the authorities and wait in your car for authorities to get to you.”

For those who may have nowhere to go to get out of the cold, the downtown Cedar Rapids Public Library, 450 Fifth Ave. SE, will open an hour early — at 8 a.m. — Tuesday through Thursday, during the cold weather conditions. The library also will serve this week as a drop-off location for food to support the Cedar Rapids Community School District Food Drive.

Waypoint, at 318 Fifth St SE, (319) 363-2093, and Foundation 2 Crisis Center, 1540 Second Ave. SE, (319) 362-2174, operate shelters, said Cedar Rapids Public Safety Spokesperson Greg Buelow.

In Iowa City, Johnson County Shelter House said it will be operating two 24-hour shelters — at 821 S. Clinton St. and 429 South Gate — from Tuesday to Thursday.

Mark Sertterh, associate executive director at Shelter House, said people can stay as long as they need over the next 72 hours.

At Waypoint’s shelter, there’s space available for people in need.

“We have extra shelter beds that are available to ensure that no one is turned away, especially when it is this cold,” said Carrie Slagle, managing director of critical services for Waypoint. “Knowing that emergency shelters are operating already at capacity, some of the existing shelters have a few additional cots that they are making available in their existing space.”

With such prolonged frigid temperatures, residents should also take steps to keep pets safe. The easiest way is to bring them inside, said Cedar Rapids Animal Care & Control Program Manager Diane Webber. Cold weather can make health issues worse for pets.

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“If pets do want to be outside, you should make sure they have fresh water, food and a warm place they can go, such as a heated kennel or homemade outdoor shelter,” she said.

To avoid frozen pipes, the city of Cedar Rapids recommends leaving cabinet doors under sinks open to help circulate warm air near pipes and eliminating drafts from rooms containing your meter or pipes. Leaving a thin stream of water running from the tap farthest from your water meter when temperatures drop below 10 degrees also is advised.

For water pipes that may be vulnerable to cold air drafts, insulate them with wrap that contains fiberglass or other known insulating materials.

l Comments: (319) 398-8238; kat.russell@thegazette.com

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