Bitter cold temperatures in Kansas require winter precautions to keep safe – Osage County Online | Osage County News

Bitter cold temperatures in Kansas require winter precautions to keep safe

Groundhog Day came and Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow, meaning more winter headed our way. To underscore Phil’s prediction, Kansas has suffered a week of extreme winter temperatures, with temperatures for much of next week expected to range from sub-zero to teens or possible 20s.

“I know we’re all tired of staying indoors because of the coronavirus, but with temperatures like these, it’s a good idea to stay inside as much as possible and only go out if you really need to,” said Angee Morgan, Kansas Division of Emergency Management deputy director. “If you have to work outside, dress warm, don’t work alone and take frequent warming breaks. Now would be a good time to check your home and auto emergency kits to make sure they are up-to-date.”

“As Kansans we always do a good job of checking on our neighbors,” said Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly. “During bitter temperatures it is especially important to check on our elderly neighbors and family members who may be shut in either with a phone call or a visit. If you go to their home make sure and wear a mask and practice social distancing.”

Take some time before the temperature drops to ensure you are ready for the worst and have a plan in place.

Assemble an emergency kit for your home that includes a battery-operated radio, a flashlight and extra batteries, extra blankets and warm clothing, food that you can open and prepare easily and plenty of clean drinking water (at least one gallon per person per day), in case water supply lines are compromised.

Before you travel make sure your car or vehicle has at least a half a tank of gas during extreme cold situations so that you can stay warm if you become stranded. Keep an emergency supply kit in your car with these automobile extras: jumper cables, flares or reflective triangle, ice scraper, car cell phone charger, blanket, map, cat litter or sand (for better tire traction).

For a complete list of items for an emergency kit for home or vehicles, see

As temperatures drop, open cabinet doors under sinks on exterior walls of your home and turn faucets to a slow drip to help prevent pipes from freezing. Place rolled-up towels or blankets around drafty windows and doors to help keep the cold air outside and the warm air inside.

If you must use portable space heaters to warm your home, check that they have been tested and certified to the latest safety standards. Keep heat sources at least three feet from combustible items, like papers, blankets and curtains. Never leave a fireplace or portable heater unattended; turn off heaters and extinguish flames when you leave the room or go to bed. Never use appliances that weren’t designed to heat your home, such as cooking stoves and ovens, for that purpose.

More winter precautions:

Have a plan for a safe, warm place to go, and a way to get there, if it becomes unsafe to stay in your home.

Check on older loved ones and neighbors to ensure they are safe and have the means to stay that way.

On very cold days, minimize your exposure to the outdoors if possible. If you must go outside make sure you are monitoring yourself for signs of frostbite as well as hypothermia. Dress in layers. Trapped air between loose fitting clothing helps to keep you insulated. Stay covered. Wear mittens or gloves, and wear a hat. At least half of your body heat is lost if your head is uncovered. Stay dry. Wet clothing results in much faster heat loss from your body. Wear waterproof insulated boots.

Frostbite causes loss of feeling and color around the face, fingers, and toes. Signs of frostbite are numbness, white or grayish-yellow skin, and firm or waxy skin. If you are exhibiting signs of frostbite go to a warm room, soak in warm water. Use body heat to warm yourself and do not massage or use a heating pad.

Hypothermia is an unusually low body temperature. A temperature below 95 degrees is an emergency. Signs of hypothermia are shivering, exhaustion, confusion, fumbling hands, memory loss, slurred speech, and drowsiness. If you are exhibiting signs of hypothermia go to a warm room. Warm the center of the body first-chest, neck, head, and groin. Keep dry and wrapped up in warm blankets, including the head and neck.

Stay informed. Have a portable NOAA weather radio nearby to keep you up-to-date with the latest forecasts and warnings. Use wind chill temperatures to guide you in dressing properly for the outdoors.

Pet safety

Know the limits. Just like people, pets’ cold tolerance can vary from pet to pet based on their coat, body fat stores, activity level, and health. Be aware of your pet’s tolerance for cold weather, and adjust accordingly.

Stay inside. Cats and dogs should be kept inside during cold weather.

Make some noise. A warm vehicle engine can be an appealing heat source for outdoor and feral cats, but it’s deadly. Check underneath your car, bang on the hood, and honk the horn before starting the engine to encourage feline hitchhikers to abandon their roost under the hood.

Check the paws. Check your dog’s paws frequently for signs of cold-weather injury or damage, such as cracked paw pads or bleeding.

Play dress-up. If your dog has a short coat or seems bothered by the cold weather, consider a sweater or dog coat.

Wipe down. During walks, your dog’s feet, legs and belly may pick up deicers, antifreeze, or other chemicals that could be toxic. When you get back inside, wipe down or wash your pet’s feet, legs and belly to remove these chemicals and reduce the risk that your dog will be poisoned from licking them off of feet or fur. Consider using pet-safe deicers to protect pets and others in your neighborhood.

Stay home. Hot cars are a known threat to pets, but cold cars also pose significant risk to your pet’s health. You’re already familiar with how a car can rapidly cool down in cold weather; it becomes like a refrigerator, and can rapidly chill your pet. Pets that are young, old, ill, or thin are particularly susceptible to cold environments and should never be left in cold cars. Limit car travel to only that which is necessary, and don’t leave your pet unattended in the vehicle.

Prevent poisoning. Clean up any antifreeze spills quickly, as even small amounts of antifreeze can be deadly.

Protect family. Odds are your pet will be spending more time inside during the winter, so it’s a good time to make sure your house is properly pet-proofed.

Avoid ice. When walking your dog, stay away from frozen ponds, lakes and other water. You don’t know if the ice will support your dog’s weight, and if your dog breaks through the ice it could be deadly.

Provide shelter. It’s not recommended to keep any pet outside for long periods of time, but if you are unable to keep your dog inside during cold weather, provide a warm, solid shelter against wind. Make sure they have unlimited access to fresh, non-frozen water (by changing the water frequently or using a pet-safe, heated water bowl). The floor of the shelter should be off of the ground (to minimize heat loss into the ground) and the bedding should be thick, dry and changed regularly to provide a warm, dry environment. The door to the shelter should be positioned away from prevailing winds. Space heaters and heat lamps should be avoided because of the risk of burns or fire. Heated pet mats should also be used with caution because they are still capable of causing burns.

For more information on pet care, see


Companion animals aren’t the only animals in need of protection during the winter months. Livestock, including horses, have their own unique considerations and needs when the weather gets colder.

Provide appropriate shelter from the elements. Livestock can generally tolerate cold temperatures, but wind, rain, or snow will require a greater expenditure of calories. With that in mind, be sure they have a way to get out of the elements, especially the wind. Blankets can help protect horses, but a structural shelter with proper ventilation and dry bedding is the best method of protection. If you do blanket your horses, be sure to check underneath often for signs of injury, infection, or malnutrition.

Keep ice to a minimum to prevent injury, and remember to keep driveways clear so veterinarians and farriers can access your animals. Prevent mud management issues in the winter with proper preparation, whether that’s through use of material like gravel, sand, or woodchips, or through other methods.

Consider the amount and quality of feed. Besides taking shelter, livestock keep warm by expending energy, which means they need to consume enough calories to heat themselves.

Ensure access to water. It is crucial that your herd has access to fresh and unfrozen water. Tank heaters or heated buckets can help keep water at a temperature your animals are more comfortable drinking. Livestock will not drink adequate amounts of water if it is near freezing, and drinking enough water is important to your animals’ health and well-being in winter months.

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