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Be Prepared for Another Round of Extreme Cold

Contact: Ron Leix, MSP/EMHSD Public Information Officer, (517) 336-6464
Agency: State Police

Issued: Jan. 24, 2014

LANSING. With another round of arctic temperatures expected to impact the entire state until early next week, the Michigan State Police, Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division (MSP/EMHSD) is encouraging Michigan citizens and visitors to be extra cautious when going out in the extreme cold.

"As we saw a couple of weeks ago, these frigid temperatures can be potentially life-threatening," said Capt. Chris A. Kelenske, Deputy State Director of Emergency Management and Homeland Security and commander of the MSP/EMHSD. "Everyone should be prepared for all possible hazards if they head out. That means bundling up and placing emergency preparedness kits in vehicles with extra blankets and high-energy foods."

The National Weather Service is forecasting statewide bitterly cold temperatures and wind chills below zero degrees possibly until Wednesday, Jan. 29. Along the Lake Michigan shoreline, a winter storm will produce blizzard-like conditions with high winds and blowing snow through tonight. The public is encouraged to monitor local news media for up-to-date weather reports.

To stay safe during cold weather:

  • Stay indoors if possible. If you must go outside, wear protective gear--such as hats, mittens and gloves--in addition to a warm coat. Always protect your lungs with a scarf.
  • 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.
  • Weather-proof 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.
  • Check and restock your emergency preparedness kit. If you don't have a kit, make one.
  • Minimize travel. If travel is necessary, keep a full tank of gas and an emergency preparedness kit in your vehicle. Put warm clothing--such as gloves, blankets and hats--in your kit in case you become stranded.

In addition to being prepared for the extremely cold weather, the MSP/EMHSD reminds motorists to take extra precautions when stopping and driving in the winter weather.

Remember to do all of your braking before the turn is made and take proper line of travel through the turn to reduce the potential for a skid to occur. If your car begins to skid, let off the throttle and brakes and use a quick hand-over-hand steering technique to turn the front tires in the direction you want to go.

"A vehicle's handling capability is drastically reduced in winter weather, so take it slow on ice and snow," Kelenske said. "Be sure to leave enough distance between you and the vehicle in front of you. Always keep your focus on the road and avoid cell phone use while driving."

Safe winter driving tips:

  • Check the weather before leaving for a destination. If the weather forecast looks dangerous, reschedule or postpone the driving trip.
  • Keep tires at the vehicle manufacturer's recommended pressure and routinely check tire pressure during cold weather.
  • Keep windshield solvent at full strength and make sure the reservoir is full, and keep new wiper blades on front and rear wipers, if so equipped.
  • Wash your vehicle for better visibility to other drivers, and remove ice and snow from all lights, windows and the license plate before driving.
  • Periodically check all lights and replace when necessary.
  • Have your vehicle inspected by a mechanic before making long-distance trips.
  • Keep an emergency preparedness kit in your vehicle (e.g., a hand-crank flashlight and radio, cell phone charger, windshield scraper, emergency contact list, blanket, "Help" signs, jumper cables, tow strap, fire extinguisher, cat litter or sand for better tire traction, shovels, flares, first aid kit, bottled water and non-perishable, high-energy foods).

Michigan weather is unpredictable any time of year, but especially during the winter months. If you are stranded in a winter storm, do not leave your vehicle. Stay with the vehicle and wait for help.

Travelers are encouraged to go to www.michigan.gov/roadconditions and www.michigan.gov/drive to check road conditions before traveling. Weather and road conditions are also available by calling the MSP Travel Hotline at 1-800-381-8477. The MSP/EMHSD asks that you view these websites or call the Travel Hotline rather than calling your local MSP post or 911.

Citizens who need assistance or guidance are encouraged to call 211. For more information about being prepared before, during and after an emergency or disaster, go to the MSP/EMHSD's emergency preparedness website at www.michigan.gov/beprepared or Twitter page at www.twitter.com/MichEMHS.

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