GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Kent County Health Department and Kent County Emergency Management are urging residents to take extra precautions with record low temperatures expected over the next few days.
Storm Team 8 says a strong push of Arctic air Saturday will bring winds as high as 20-30 mph and wind chill factors as cold as -20 to -30. If it is clear and calm, low temperatures will likely range from -10° to -20° Sunday morning.
A wind chill chart from the National Weather Service shows someone can get frostbite in less than 30 minutes with these kinds of temperatures.
The cold can be especially harsh on young children, people with pre-existing medical conditions, and seniors. Kent County Emergency Management Coordinator Jack Stewart reminds people to check on family members, friends, and neighbors especially those who are elderly.
“Frostbite sets in quick, especially in small pets and young children, when we see negative wind chills,” says Adam London, Administrative Health Officer of the Kent County Health Department. “If you are going outdoors, wear layers of light, warm clothing, mittens or gloves, hats, scarves, and waterproof boots. And keep a close eye on children.”
Symptoms of frostbite include redness, numbness or pain, white or grayish-yellow skin, or skin that feels unusually firm or waxy.
If a person appears to be very tired or lethargic, is having trouble breathing or talking, shivers or fumbles his or her hands, or seems confused, call 911 immediately.
Drink plenty of fluids. Hydration increases the blood’s volume which helps prevent frostbite.
Respiratory issues can also occur from breathing in cold air, such as asthma attacks. Health officials encourage children with asthma to wear a scarf when outdoors, and if they appear to have trouble breathing, get them to a warm, sheltered area immediately.
If driving in these conditions, make sure your car has more than enough gas to reach your destination. Keep a cell phone and phone charger in the car, and keep an emergency kit and blanket within your reach.
Don’t forget about your pets. Keep your pets indoors as much as possible. Puppies and kittens are especially sensitive to the cold, as are older pets.
Watch out for community cats that might crawl under the hood of your car to keep warm. Bang loudly on the hood before starting the car, and never leave pets in a car during the winter.
For non-emergency help during the cold weather, call United Way at 211.