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Extreme cold warning in effect for Kingston and area

Kingston waterfront in winter, by Russell Heistuman

Environment Canada has issued an extreme cold warning for Kingston and the area on Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022, with very cold wind chill values expected to develop Tuesday night and into Wednesday morning.

The warning was issued at around 11 a.m. for Kingston, Odessa, and Frontenac Islands, as well as the Napanee and Consecon, and Picton and Sandbanks Park areas.

“A period of very cold wind chills is expected,” the warning reads. “Minimum temperatures of minus 21 to 27 degrees Celsius with wind chill values between minus 28 to minus 33.”

Cold Weather Health Warnings are issued by KFL&A Public Health when the temperature is forecast to be -25°C or colder or when a wind chill of -28°C or colder is forecast for the region by Environment Canada. At approximately 1 p.m., KFL&A Public Health released just such a warning, coinciding with the Environment Canada warning earlier today, stating that all regions of Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox & Addington, may see wind chill temperatures dip to -30°C.

Children and seniors should take precautions to avoid the effects of the cold, or be kept indoors to avoid cold injuries, according to the release from KFL&A Public Health. KFL&A Public Health also works with community service providers, municipalities, schools, long-term care homes, and emergency service providers to ensure that vulnerable groups are taken into consideration, according to the release.

Public Health said that very cold weather brings an increased risk of hypothermia for people who stay outside for long periods of time without adequate protection. Overexposure to cold temperatures can result in severe injury. People at greatest risk from cold injuries include infants, the elderly, homeless, outdoor workers, recreation enthusiasts and people who consume excess alcohol, according to the release.

“Risks are greater for young children, older adults, people with chronic illnesses, people working or exercising outdoors, and those without proper shelter,” Environment Canada echoed.

“Extreme cold puts everyone at risk,” Environment Canada continued, also cautioning against leaving pets outdoors. “If it’s too cold for you to stay outside, it’s too cold for your pet to stay outside.”

The Medical Officer of Health for KFL&A Public Health recommends area residents take the following actions to prevent cold injuries, such as hypothermia and frostbite:

  • Wear several layers of clothing and make sure that the outer layer protects you from wind and wetness.
  • Cover exposed skin (with hats, mittens, face mask) to protect against frostbite.
  • Drink warm fluids that do not contain caffeine or alcohol, to prevent dehydration.
  • Maintain a heated indoor environment above 20°C; hypothermia can even occur indoors when temperatures are 16°C (61°F) or lower.
  • Avoid outdoor strenuous exercise during cold spells.
  • Check frequently on elderly and vulnerable people; ensure they are in a safe and warm environment.

According to the Kingston Response Group:

In the event of a Cold Weather Warning (-25C):

  • Kingston Frontenac Public Library branches will open for drop-in warming during regular hours
  • 362 Montreal Street (Housing and Social Services) will open 8:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. for drop-in warming during weekdays
  • Please watch for updates when these cold weather warnings are issued.

Warming Centres

The Warming and Counselling Centre at 218 Concession Street is now open on the following schedule:

  • Drop-in (8 p.m. to midnight), 7 days a week, operated by Lionhearts and Kingston Street Mission; services include food, refreshments, clothing, hygiene supplies, washrooms access; capacity is 35 individuals.
  • Overnight sleeping (8 p.m. to 8 a.m.), Thursday to Sunday, operated by Home Base Housing; sleeping area upstairs includes 19 individual pods; capacity is 19 individuals.

Please note the Warming and Counselling Centre plans to open for more overnight service subject to staff availability and the schedule will be revised once they are able to confirm the service expansion. Warming and Counselling Centre telephone number is 613-542-6672 x 310. Call to check the availability of a sleeping pod.

Please note that during a cold weather emergency the Centre MAY be opened for additional service subject to staff and volunteer availability. Please call the Centre to check.

KFL&A Public Health encourages everyone to know signs of frostbite and hypothermia, and what to do in those circumstances:

Frostbite
Frostbite is an injury to the skin that is caused by freezing. The risk of frostbite increases when the wind chill rises. Early signs include pink or reddish areas that may feel numb. As frostbite progresses, the affected area will become white and waxy in appearance.

If you suspect frostbite, move to a warm area out of the wind and gently re-warm the affected area using your own body heat; the affected area should not be rubbed, as rubbing can cause more damage. Medical help should be sought if the area does not return to normal colour or sensation quickly.

Hypothermia
Hypothermia occurs when the body is exposed to cold temperatures, and it begins to lose heat faster than it can be produced. The result is an abnormally low body temperature that can affect brain and muscle function. Hypothermia can be dangerous as a person may not be aware that it is happening and may not understand that corrective action is necessary. An adult who stumbles, mumbles and fumbles objects may be suffering from hypothermia.

If hypothermia is suspected, the affected person should be moved to a warm location, and any wet clothing removed. The individual should be covered with several layers of blankets and offered a warm, non-alcoholic, non-caffeinated drink if he or she is able to swallow. A person with severe hypothermia may be unconscious and if a pulse can’t be found in the neck, 9-1-1 should be called and CPR began immediately.

Knowing what to do is an important part of protecting your health and the health of others, Public Health said in the release. This warning is in effect as long as the extreme weather conditions exist.

Ted Hsu for MPP
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