Local officials warn residents to be safe during extreme weather

Published 9:49 am Tuesday, January 29, 2019

DOWAGIAC — Monday’s snowstorm was a brutal one that left schools, business and county government offices closed. However, the worst is yet to come, as this week areas across Michigan and Indiana will be experiencing frigid weather and extreme temperatures. 

In Cass County, residents should brace for continuing snow through Friday. Tuesday, wind chills will dip to between 15 and 25 degrees below zero, according to the National Weather Service. Wednesday, wind chills are expected to be in the 35 to 45 degrees below zero range, with the trend continuing Thursday, with wind chill expectancies to be in the field of 29 to 39 below. The extreme cold is expected to lift Friday, with highs in the upper 20s.

To prepare for the coming cold front, local officials are offering advice to help residents stay safe.

“These are dangerous temperatures,” said David Smith, Cass County emergency management coordinator. “Residents need to take precautions.”

General tips to stay safe during cold weather include:

• Limit time outside. If you need to go outside, wear layers of warm clothing. Watch for signs of frostbite and hypothermia. Signs of frostbite include loss of feeling and color around the face, fingers and toes, numbness, white or grayish-yellow skin, firm or waxy skin. Symptoms of hypothermia include shivering, exhaustion, confusion, fumbling hands, memory loss, slurred speech or drowsiness.

• Avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Only use generators and grills outdoors and away from windows. Never heat a home with a gas stovetop or oven.

• Reduce the risk of a heart attack. Avoid overexertion when shoveling snow.

• Check on neighbors. Older adults and young children are more at risk in extreme cold.

• Pets are also at risk for cold weather injuries and should be kept indoors.

• Contact United Way of Southwest Michigan’s 211 number to be connected with agencies that can help with non-emergent needs.

• If stranded or involved in some other emergency, call 911.

• 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 a car kit.

Steve Grinnewald, director of public safety for the Dowagiac Police Department, said this step is vital as road and emergency crews will be backed up this week, and it may take time for a responder to reach a call.

Both Smith and Grinnewald said their best bit of advice to residents is to stay home if at all possible to avoid the cold temperatures.

If a resident’s home is not warm enough during the day, Smith advised that residents could seek out open offices such as the library or the Cass County Council on Aging to get warm. 

“The basic thing is don’t be outside for any period of time,” Smith said. “Any exposed skin is subject to frostbite, which can occur in as little as 10 minutes. If you are planning to go somewhere, let someone know where you are going and what time you are planning to get there. Check in with them so that if you don’t show up, they know something might have happened to you.”

“Stay inside. That’s your safest bet,” Grinnewald added. “If you do have to go outside, make sure that you are bundled up and covered in layers.”

Grinnewald also said that residents should remember to stay community-minded and look out for their friends and neighbors during this week’s cold.

“Watch out for each other. Some might be embarrassed to reach out if they don’t have heat or some other necessity, so be sure to be watching out for each other and helping out if you can,” Grinnewald said. “If you need us, call us. That is what we are here for.”