Be prepared when venturing out in extreme cold

Sounds like the winter of 2019 is about to get real — as in real cold.

Temperatures, relatively benign for the region so far, took a plunge this week and are only supposed to get more arctic through the weekend.

And while the more long-range forecast has the possibility of the Upper Peninsula being warmer than normal, chances are just as good that the weak El Nino now forming in the Pacific Ocean won’t be strong enough to influence conditions here enough until spring.

Meanwhile, the polar vortex — fun to say, not fun to endure — is polar bearing down on the region, forecasters say. Parts of the Upper Peninsula could experience below-zero overnight temperatures through next weekend.

With that in mind, the Michigan State Police has offered some advice if venturing out during this extreme cold snap.

“Extremely cold temperatures can be hazardous and potentially life-threatening,” said Capt. Emmitt McGowan, deputy state director of Emergency Management and Homeland Security and commander of the Michigan State Police, Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division. “We are asking that Michiganders monitor their local weather reports and follow the appropriate steps to stay safe during this cold spell.”

To stay safe during cold weather, MSP recommends:

— Stay indoors if possible. If going outside, wear protective gear, such as hats, mittens, gloves, scarf and a warm coat.

— Avoid overexertion when shoveling heavy snow, pushing a car, or walking in deep snow. Take breaks frequently.

— Watch for signs of frostbite, which include loss of feeling or pale appearance of fingers, toes or face.

— Watch for signs of hypothermia, which include uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, drowsiness and exhaustion.

— Understand the hazards of wind chill. As wind speed increases, heat is carried away from a person’s body more rapidly and could lead to severe hypothermia.

— Remove clothing if it gets damp or wet. Wet clothing can make you more prone to hypothermia.

— Weatherproof doors and windows to trap heat inside your home.

— Check heating units. Poorly operating or damaged heating units can release carbon monoxide gas.

— Test carbon monoxide detectors for proper operation and battery life.

— Check on family, friends and neighbors who are at risk and may need additional assistance.

— Watch pets closely and keep them indoors when possible. Animals can suffer from hypothermia, frostbite and other cold-weather injuries.

— If travel is necessary, keep a full tank of gas and an emergency preparedness kit in the vehicle. Put warm clothing, such as gloves, blankets and hats, and a cell phone charger in the kit.

— If stranded, stay with the vehicle and wait for help.

Motorists are encouraged to check travel conditions and weather reports before driving at www.michigan.gov/roadconditions. Major road closures can be found at www.michigan.gov/drive. The MSP/EMHSD asks the public tune into local news and/or view these websites rather than calling the local MSP post or 911 for travel conditions.

Residents who need assistance or guidance during the extreme cold are encouraged to call 211.

For more information on how to prepare before, during and after an emergency or disaster, go to www.michigan.gov/miready or follow MSP/EMHSD on Twitter at @MichEMHS.

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