Extreme cold warning issued for Kingston area

Kingston waterfront in winter, by Russell Heistuman

Environment Canada has issued an Extreme Cold Warning for Kingston, Odessa, Frontenac Islands, Napanee, Consecon, Picton and Sandbanks Park on Thursday, February 13.

Bitterly cold wind chills near -30 are expected overnight and into Friday morning.

Temperatures should rise Friday morning.

“You should keep emergency supplies in your vehicle such as extra blankets and jumper cables. If it’s too cold for you to stay outside, it’s too cold for your pet to stay outside,” says Environment Canada.

Outdoor workers should take regularly scheduled breaks to warm up.

Extreme cold warnings are issued when very cold temperatures or wind chill creates an elevated risk to health such as frost bite and hypothermia.

The following is a cold weather health warning from KFL&A Public Health:

Cold Weather Health Warnings are issued through the media by KFL&A Public Health when the temperature is forecast to be -25°C or colder, when a wind chill of -28°C or colder is forecast, or when extreme weather conditions—blizzard or severe snow storm—are forecast for the KFL&A area by Environment Canada.  When the temperature drops below -25°C or the wind chill is below -28°C, children and seniors should take precautions to avoid the effects of the cold, or be kept indoors to avoid cold injuries.  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.

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.

The Medical Officer of Health recommends that you 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.
  • Know the signs of frostbite and hypothermia—know what to do!

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. This warning is in effect as long as the extreme weather conditions exist.

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