Just when you thought it was safe to venture out into the cold again, North Americans have been told that a second Polar Vortex is about to hit them. So far the freezing Arctic winds has seen temperatures drop to as low as –40C in some areas, with wind chill factors reaching up to –60C. The Polar Vortex that is causing these freezing temperatures is a wind pattern that typically stays up in the North Pole, but sometimes the vortex is weakened, bringing freezing cold air down through Canada and into North America and some parts of Eastern Europe. Extreme cold presents two major problems; the first being hypothermia, in which your core body temperature falls dangerously low, and frostbite, where your extremities such as your fingers and toes can literally freeze and have to be removed. But how can you protect yourself from the icy conditions, and make sure that you are not affected by the cold? Advice from the US Government states that you should stay at home and sit out a very cold snap indoors. Making sure you have enough food, water, medicine and fuel is essential, as you do not want to have to travel outdoors to grocery stores to stock up.
Keep your house warm by having the heating on low all the time, throughout the day and night. This will ensure that pipes do not freeze and crack, and it is also supposed to cost less than if you keep turning it off and on again, as the amount of energy required to reheat the house is more than keeping it at a constant temperature level. If the cold is very extreme, have one room in the house, preferably one that has a fire or electric or gas heater, which is much warmer than all the others and keep everyone in this one room for eating and sleeping.
Keep yourself warm by having hot bathes and or showers at the start of the day, and eat warming foods such as hot cereals for breakfast, soups for lunch and a comforting stew or casserole for dinner. It also helps to layer your clothing in extreme cold conditions, as this allows the air to circulate but still be trapped inside your clothes, which helps to keep you warm. Make sure your hands and feet are covered properly if you have to go out, and remember that mittens are warmer than gloves, and that you can put hand or feet warmers into boots to warm them up.
You should remove any metallic jewellery in extreme cold as the metal will freeze faster than your skin and become very painful. Caffeine and alcohol lower your body temperature so steer clear of these substances, and if you do have to leave your home for extra supplies, remember to stock out your car with emergency blankets, snow shovels, a warming drink in a flask and your mobile phone. Also if you have to drive, wear as many clothes as you can get on, as if you break down the temperature in the car will soon plummet to the outside ones. Remember that although petrol (gas) only freezes at about -60C (-76F), diesel can clog at -10C (14F) and needs to be “winter-weighted”. Also in extreme cold tyres can freeze solid, but they are still drivable.
Finally, taps should be left to drip a little as this will stop pipes freezing, and you should always make sure that all pets are brought inside.
Featured picture © AP