Dangerously cold temperatures are already gripping the D.C. area, bringing single-digit wind chills and the possibility of snow this week.
Read on for some helpful tips to help you cope with this dangerously cold weather at home, in your car or when caring for your pets:
AROUND YOUR HOME
- Stay indoors if possible. If you must go outdoors, officials urge you dress warmly and wear loose-fitting, layered, lightweight clothing. Wear a scarf over your mouth to protect your lungs.
- Watch for signs of hypothermia, including uncontrollable shivering, weak pulse, disorientation, incoherence and drowsiness, and frostbite, including gray, white or yellow skin discoloration, numbness and waxy-feeling skin.
- Have safe emergency heating equipment in your home, as well as a flashlight, portable radio and three days' worth of food in case the power goes out.
- To prevent frozen pipes, State Farm suggests letting your hot and cold faucets drip overnight and open cabinet doors to allow heat to get to uninsulated pipes under sinks on exterior walls.
- Find the water shut-off valve in your home in advance of a water emergency, so you know where to go if a pipe bursts, D.C. Water spokesperson Pamela Mooring advised.
- Disconnect garden hoses and, if practical, use an indoor valve to shut off and drain water from pipes leading to outside faucets.
- If you' are going away for an extended period of time, be sure to maintain adequate heat inside your home at no lower than 55 degrees.
- Do not place a space heater within three feet of anything combustible.
- Go ahead and program your local utility contact information into your cell phone now, before you need them.
Important Utility Numbers include:
-- Pepco: 1-877-737-2662
-- Baltimore Gas and Electric (BG&E): 1-877-778-2222 or 1-800-685-0123
-- SMECO: 1-877-747-6326 or 1-888-440-3311
-- Washington Gas: 1-800-752-7520 or 1-703-750-1400
-- Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC): 1-800-828-4002
KEEPING YOUR CAR SAFE AND RUNNING
- If your car battery is three years old or older, it is more likely to fail as temperatures drops,according to AAA. Never attempt to charge or jump-start a battery that is frozen, as it may rupture or explode.
- Never warm up a vehicle in an enclosed area, such as a garage.
- Make certain your tires are properly inflated.
- Keep your gas tank at least half full to avoid gas line freeze-up.
- If possible, avoid using your parking brake in cold, rainy and snowy weather.
- Wintry weather can contribute to the deterioration of your windshield wipers. Worn blades streak and impair vision, which is critical during winter months. AAA says wiper blades should be replaced every year.
- Keep your washer fluid topped off with winter formula fluid so it won't freeze. Many of your car's fluids should be checked once a month.
KEEPING YOUR PET(S) SAFE
- Keep your pets inside. Dogs and cats left outside can freeze, get injured or become lost.
- If there are outdoor cats in your area, bang on the hood of your car before starting the engine to give them a chance to escape.
- The ASPCA suggests wiping your dogs' legs, feet and abdomens when they come in from snowy or icy conditions. Dogs can ingest salt, antifreeze and other chemicals when licking their paws.
- Never leave your pet inside a car unattended.
- The Fairfax County Animal Shelter is also offering temporary housing from the cold for cats, dogs or small companion animals. If you or someone you know needs to use this service, call the shelter at 703-324-0208.
HELPING THE HOMELESS
- Be on the lookout for homeless people, who could get hypothermia as temperatures drop. If you see someone in the D.C. area who needs shelter or warmer clothing, call the following numbers:
-- The District: 202-399-7093 or 311 if calling within the city
-- Arlington County: 703-228-1010 (24 hours)
-- Fairfax County: 703-691-2131 (police non-emergency line)
-- Montgomery County: 311 if calling within the county or 240-777-4000
-- Prince George's County: 888-731-0999
-- Loudoun County: 703-771-5429 (Volunteers of America) or call the sheriff's office
Brooke Evans contributed to this report.
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