Community braces against cold snap

By Megan R. Harrell
Star Staff
mharrell@starhq.com

   A cold weather system moving through the United States has brought arctic temperatures to most of the southeast. Areas unaccustomed to sub zero conditions have been hit with temperatures dipping to record lows.
   Freezing temperatures are expected to linger in East Tennessee throughout the weekend, and wind chill advisories have been issued for most of the region. The freezing winds bring with them dangerous conditions to those who are not properly prepared.
   Local emergency management officials have offered advice to residents as they try to stay warm until the cold system makes its way through Carter County. Elizabethton/Carter County Emergency Management Agency Director, Jim Burrough said the biggest concern with extremely cold weather is making sure the public is prepared for possible power outages.
   "The elderly people especially need to have an alternate heat source in case the power goes out," Burrough said. "They also need to have somebody they can call because if the power goes out, the heat goes off and it gets cold real quick."
   Burrough added that families with small children also need to be prepared in case the snow and cold weather cause power failure. He stated that Carter County has been fortunate so far this winter, because the snow and ice has not accumulated on power lines and there have been no outages.
   In case power outages do occur, emergency phone numbers should always be located in a place where they will be easy to find. Alternative heaters should also be moved to convenient locations in preparation for the loss of electricity.
   Officials advise the elderly and young children to stay inside until temperatures reach more comfortable levels, and offer tips for those who must go out in the inclement weather.
   "They should dress in layers, and when they get to their destinations where it is warmer, they can start taking off the layers rather than putting on something big and bulky to begin with," Burrough said.
   There are several health issues connected with cold weather. Hypothermia, and vasoconstriction of the blood vessels leading to the fingers and toes resulting in frost bite are the most common. There are several steps individuals can take to protect themselves against the cold.
   Health officials discourage drinking alcoholic beverages before going out in cold weather, and advise the public to eat warm foods high in energy, such as soup. Beverages containing caffeine should be avoided.
   Those who must work outside in the cold are advised to pay attention to signs of fatigue and exhaustion. Over exertion often results from shoveling snow or pushing a vehicle. Officials say these activities are extremely difficult even for those in prime physical condition.
   Clothing that absorbs moisture should be worn closest to the skin, to allow for any perspiration to evaporate. Moisture left on the skin results in a subsequent chill, which lowers the body temperature.
   Potential weather related disasters can also be avoided by stocking automobiles with supplies before going out in the cold. Members of the community are advised to carry winter storm kits, including a flashlight, blankets, non-perishable food, and extra clothing in their trunks.
   Brochures containing cold weather precautions are available at the local EMA office, located on the first floor of the county courthouse.