by Sarah Craighead Dedmon
A forecasted temperature of -17 degrees followed by a high of 2 degrees will bring dangerously cold weather and shocking wind chills to Washington County this weekend, which means residents should prepare now to ensure their safety and the safety of their loved ones.
News Center Maine Meteorologist Jason Nappi predicts wind chills of -46 degrees in Calais around dawn on Saturday, Feb. 3, due to winds of 20-30 miles per hour and occasionally higher gusts. In Machias, the high temperature for Saturday is currently forecasted to be 2 degrees.
Now is the right time to ensure your fireplace, wood stove, furnace, and electric heaters are working correctly, according to the "Homeowner’s Severe Cold Weather Survival Guide,: published by the Insurance Information Institute.
Make sure you have at least enough propane, heating fuel, or wood to last through the weekend. Some residents may qualify for home heating fuel assistance. To see if you qualify, contact Downeast Community Partners at 800-828-7544 or 610-5914.
If your home loses power or your heat source malfunctions, Healthy Acadia operates an overnight warming center in Ellsworth. The center will be open from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., now through April 30, and is located at 24 Church Street, Ellsworth. A meal is served at 7:30 p.m.
If you must leave home during the coldest temperatures, the National Weather Service says to dress in warm layers, make sure your cell phone is fully charged, and make sure your vehicle has a winter survival kit, including warm clothing, a blanket, a first aid kit, water, and food.
“People exposed to extreme cold are susceptible to frostbite in a matter of minutes,” reads the NWS website. “Areas most prone to frostbite are uncovered skin and the extremities, such as hands and feet. Hypothermia is another threat during extreme cold. Hypothermia occurs when the body loses heat faster than it can produce.”
Check on your elderly friends and neighbors to make sure they have what they need to weather the cold.
Especially in older homes, it may be advisable to close rooms off to keep one or two rooms especially warm. Some people hang heavy blankets over their exterior doors to further block the cold.
If you have livestock, make sure they are well-fed and have a barn and clean bedding.
To prepare for the possibility of frozen pipes, ensure you know where the main water shutoff for your home is in case a pipe bursts, and you need to cut off water.
Also, consider opening your faucets to let them drip slowly. Keeping water moving within the pipes will help prevent them from freezing.
If your bathroom sink has a cabinet beneath it, leaving the doors open will sometimes prevent freezing by letting warm air circulate around the pipes.