Frostbite, hypothermia possible mid-week
information provided by the Office of the Governor
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (January 28, 2019) — Governor JB Pritzker put in place an Emergency Preparedness Plan to be carried out by the State Emergency Operations Center, state agencies, and local emergency management officials as record-breaking cold weather approaches Illinois.
“This is a potentially historic winter storm that will bring extreme cold to our state, and all Illinoisans must prepare,” said Governor Pritzker. “We will continue working with local officials to make sure they get the help they need to keep their communities safe.”
The Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) has a list of identified warming centers in the state, listed by county. Additionally, all Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) offices serve as warming centers during regular business hours for anyone looking to find a safe, warm place during the cold.
- Illinois warming centers, by county
Current forecast models indicate arctic air will move into Illinois Tuesday evening and last through Thursday. The National Weather Service indicates wind chills could reach -55 in northern Illinois, -35 in central Illinois and -25 in parts of southern Illinois.
With these extreme temperatures and dangerous wind chills, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) indicates frostbite could set in on exposed skin within 10-15 minutes.
IDPH reminds people of the health dangers of extreme low temperatures and tips on how to stay warm.
Parts of the body most commonly affected by frostbite include the face, ears, hands, and feet. Frostbitten skin is whitish and stiff, and the area will feel numb rather than painful. To treat frostbite, warm the affected part of the body gradually. Wrap the frostbitten area in blankets, sweaters, coats, etc. and seek medical attention immediately. Do not rub frostbitten areas because the friction can damage the tissue.
Hypothermia is caused by a drop in body temperature to 95 degrees Fahrenheit (F) or less and can be fatal if not detected promptly and treated properly. Infants and the elderly are particularly at risk of hypothermia. Infants suffering hypothermia may experience bright red, cold skin. Other signs of hypothermia include:
- Slurred speech
- Weak pulse
- Slow heartbeat
Do not try to treat hypothermia at home. The condition should be treated in a hospital.
Dressing for the cold
IDPH offers these tips for people who may need to be outside:
- Wear several layers of lightweight clothing rather than one or two layers of heavy garments. The air between the layers of clothing acts as insulation to keep the body warmer.
- Cover your head. You lose as much as 50 percent of your body heat through your head.
- Wear mittens rather than fingered gloves.
- Wear warm leg coverings and heavy socks or two pairs of lightweight socks.
- Wear waterproof boots or sturdy shoes that give you maximum traction.
- Cover your ears and the lower part of your face. The ears, nose, chin, and forehead are most susceptible to frostbite. Cover your mouth with a scarf to protect the lungs from directly inhaling extremely cold air.
People with medical conditions should plan ahead and have enough medications, oxygen, diabetes testing equipment, and other medical supplies needed for several days. People who need to schedule medical care such as dialysis, cancer therapy, and other appointments should talk directly with their healthcare provider.
Traveling in the cold
When possible, stay off the roads during and immediately after a storm, allowing crews to effectively clear and appropriately treat area roadways. If travel during a storm is necessary, Illinois law requires drivers to change lanes when approaching police or other emergency vehicles.
Check road conditions (www.gettingaroundillinois.com) before leaving. “Do not let a warm vehicle give you a false sense of security,” said Alicia Tate-Nadeau, Acting IEMA Director. “An unexpected breakdown could turn into an extremely dangerous situation with these extreme temperatures.” Vehicles should be equipped with an emergency kit:
- Emergency kit checklist (PDF)
Over the course of the next few days, Governor Pritzker encourages people in affected areas to check on elderly neighbors who may be in need of assistance. “We need to reach out to our friends and neighbors. If you know of someone who needs help, please contact your local law enforcement officials.”
Additional information on preparing your home and family for dangerous winter weather can be found on Ready.Illinois.gov. Winter weather updates and safety tips will be posted on the Ready Illinois Facebook page and Twitter page.