Gov. JB Pritzker on Monday put in place an Emergency Preparedness Plan to be carried out by the State Emergency Operations Center, state agencies and local emergency management officials as record-breaking cold weather approaches our state.
“This is a potentially historic winter storm that will bring extreme cold to our state and all Illinoisans must prepare,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “Our administration putting into place an Emergency Preparedness Plan with key state agencies as well as warning residents about these life-threatening conditions. We will continue working with local officials to make sure they get the help they need to keep their communities safe.”
Current forecast models indicate arctic air will move into Illinois Tuesday evening and last through Thursday. The National Weather Service indicates wind chills could reach -55 in northern Illinois, -35 in central Illinois and -25 in parts of southern Illinois.
The Ready Illinois website is a one stop shop for emergency resources. The Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) has a list of identified warming centers in our state, listed by county. If there is not a warming center near you, call your county emergency management agency for additional assistance. Additionally, all Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) offices serve as warming centers during regular business hours for anyone looking to find a safe, warm place during the cold.
With these extreme temperatures and dangerous wind chills, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) indicates frostbite could set in on exposed skin within 10-15 minutes.
IDPH reminds people of the health dangers of extreme low temperatures and tips on how to stay warm.
Parts of the body most commonly affected by frostbite due to exposed skin include the face, ears, hands and feet. Frostbitten skin is whitish and stiff, and the area will feel numb rather than painful. To treat frostbite, warm the affected part of the body gradually. Wrap the frostbitten area in blankets, sweaters, coats, etc. and seek medical attention immediately. Do not rub frostbitten areas because the friction can damage the tissue.
Hypothermia is caused by a drop in body temperature to 95 degrees Fahrenheit (F) or less and can be fatal if not detected promptly and treated properly. Infants and the elderly are particularly at risk of hypothermia. Signs of hypothermia include:
• Slurred speech
• Weak pulse
• Slow heartbeat
• Infants may experience bright red, cold skin.
Do not try to treat hypothermia at home. The condition should be treated in a hospital.
Dressing for the cold
If you need to be outside, the following suggestions will help keep you warm and protect your body from excessive heat loss.
• Wear several layers of lightweight clothing rather than one or two layers of heavy garments. The air between the layers of clothing acts as insulation to keep you warmer.
• Cover your head. You lose as much as 50 percent of your body heat through your head.
• Wear mittens rather than fingered gloves.
• Wear warm leg coverings and heavy socks or two pairs of lightweight socks.
• Wear waterproof boots or sturdy shoes that give you maximum traction.
• Cover your ears and the lower part of your face. The ears, nose, chin, and forehead are most susceptible to frostbite. Cover your mouth with a scarf to protect the lungs from directly inhaling extremely cold air.
Make sure you have enough needed medications, oxygen, diabetes testing equipment and other medical supplies needed for several days. Talk with your health care provider about scheduling daily or frequent medical care such as dialysis, cancer therapy and other appointments.
Traveling in the Cold
When possible, stay off the roads during and immediately after a storm. This allows crews to effectively clear and appropriately treat area roadways. If you must travel during a storm, please remember to share the road. Illinois law requires drivers to change lanes when approaching police or other emergency vehicles.
Crews with the Illinois Department of Transportation continue to work around the clock to clear snow and ice from roadways in northern Illinois. If you plan to travel this week, be sure to check road conditions (www.gettingaroundillinois.com) before you leave and make sure your vehicle is equipped with an emergency kit. “Do not let a warm vehicle give you a false sense of security,” said Alicia Tate-Nadeau, Acting IEMA Director. “An unexpected breakdown could turn into an extremely dangerous situation with these extreme temperatures.” To learn more about what you should include in your vehicle’s emergency kit, visit ready.illinois.gov.
Over the course of the next few days, Governor Pritzker encourages people in affected areas to check on elderly neighbors who may be in need of assistance. “We need to reach out to our friends and neighbors. If you know of someone who needs help, please contact your local law enforcement officials.”
Additional information on preparing your home and family for dangerous winter weather can be found on Ready.Illinois.gov. Winter weather updates and safety tips will be posted on the Ready Illinois Facebook (www.facebook.com/ReadyIllinois) and Twitter (www.twitter.com/ReadyIllinois) pages.