DARKE COUNTY — It appears 2018 will start off cold in Darke County — brutally cold, in fact.
Weather forecasters are predicting continued frigid temperatures and extremely cold wind chills across Ohio as we ring in the new year. Current temperatures are 20 to 30 degrees below average for this time of year, with single-digit lows and negative wind-chill readings. New Year’s Eve weekend is predicted to be especially frigid, with an estimated high of 12 degrees and a lows hovering near zero.
Not surprisingly, the National Weather Service (NWS) in Wilmington, Ohio, has issued a Wind Chill Advisory for the entire Miami Valley.
“A very cold airmass will remain in place over the region this week,” NWS said. “High temperatures [Wednesday] will be in the lower teens, and high temperatures Thursday will be in the upper teens. Morning lows will be in the single digits through the rest of the week.”
“High temperatures will increase into the 20s by Friday, but more cold air is coming over the weekend, when highs will once again be in the teens. Those planning outdoor activities this week should be prepared for very cold conditions.”
While everyone should be cautious when dealing with subnormal cold conditions, the elderly are especially vulnerable, both outside and inside.
“Older adults are at increased risk for complications from conditions including snow, ice, bitter cold and more. Factors like age-related changes and medication side effects can intensify the impact,” said Beverley Laubert, Interim Director of the Ohio Department of Aging. “Extremely cold temperatures equal severe weather, and we ask all Ohioans to check on older loved ones, neighbors and friends during this and other severe weather.”
Check on your neighbors
Laubert says before, during and after severe winter conditions, people should check in on older loved ones, friends and neighbors to ensure they are okay and have the resources they need to remain safe and healthy.
• Do they need medical attention? Have they fallen? Are they staying warm enough? Are they taking their medicines as prescribed?
• Do they have safe food and water? Are they eating and drinking regularly?
• Is the temperature in their home comfortable? Do they have safe means to heat the home if temperatures continue to fall?
• Whom will they call if they need help? Do they have access to a phone that will work without power or landline service?
Be aware that confusion, disorientation and irritability can be symptoms of conditions such as dehydration, stress and fatigue. If someone appears ill or is injured, call 9-1-1 immediately.
Laubert recommends everyone, old or young, should have a winter preparedness plan that enables them to remain in place for three days if they become unable to leave their homes due to weather conditions. Each household should have an emergency kit that contains, at a minimum, a battery operated radio, flashlight, extra batteries, a loud whistle or bell, food you can open and prepare easily, water (one gallon per person per day), extra blankets and a first aid kit.
Older adults, however, may have a few additional considerations:
• A backup supply of daily medicines and the means to store them properly;
• Ready access to medical equipment and assistive devices (such as canes, walkers, wheelchairs, lifts, oxygen tanks, and so forth) as well as spare batteries and non-powered options.
• A safe place to go if it becomes unsafe to stay in your home (public shelter, friend’s or neighbor’s house) and a plan for getting there.
• Instructions for rescue personnel to help you relocate safely and quickly in an emergency.
Your preparation should also include a plan for safely keeping the temperature in your home comfortable. Use only space heaters that have been tested and certified to the latest safety standards, and do not leave a space heater unattended. Never use a kitchen stove or any other appliance not designed to heat your home for that purpose.
Wintry precipitation, such as snow and freezing rain, also increases the risk of a potentially life-changing fall for older people, she says. If you must go out in wintry conditions, wear boots or shoes that fit properly and have good traction. Bundle up to stay warm, but make sure you can see and move freely. Slow down and give yourself extra time to get where you’re going. Try to walk only on surfaces that have been cleared and treated for ice and snow. Use handrails whenever possible. When in doubt, ask for help.
Find help in your community
The Ohio Department of Aging works with the state’s 12 area agencies on aging to make sure that each community has a plan for assisting older adults during weather emergencies. Your area agency can also help you identify resources, such as energy assistance, chore service and minor home repairs that can help you stay warm and safe this winter. Call 866-243-5678 to be connected to the agency serving your community.
More emergency preparedness advice and resources are available on the department’s website: www.aging.ohio.gov/safeathome
The Department of Aging is a proud member of the Ohio Committee for Severe Weather Awareness, along with the Ohio Emergency Management Agency. Visit www.ema.ohio.gov for information on winter safety and severe weather preparedness.
The writer may be reached at 937-569-4314. Join the conversation and get updates on Facebook search Darke County Sports or Advocate 360. For more features online go to dailyadvocate.com