Area braces for frigid cold blast

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

By PAT PRATT

Staff Writer

Temperatures will be below freezing most of the week in the wake of an arctic blast, prompting freeze advisories in Butler County and across much of the Midwest.

According to the National Weather Service, only Tuesday of this week will see above freezing temperatures. Late Tuesday night, a strong arctic high will move southeast from the plains and end up over Southeast Missouri by early Thursday.

The NWS predicts temperatures in the teens Wednesday with wind gusts of 15-30 miles per hour and a low of 8 degrees, causing wind chills of 5-15 degrees below zero.

Lows by Thursday morning will be around zero, but the winds will diminish Wednesday night. Highs on Thursday will be around 25 degrees. Highs will warm up to around 34 degrees on Friday.

Butler County's Emergency Management Agency (EMA) says they are ready to open warming shelters in the event of a substantial power outage, but not strictly due to the cold. EMA opened centers last year during bouts of severe weather, but none were utilized by a single member of the public.

"In this case we don't have stormy weather, but I will open a warming center immediately if we have some issues with power," said Jeff Shawan, EMA director. "Right now there is not any reason to believe that we are going to have any problems."

There are places to go if you experience a heating emergency. Large retailers offer a chance to stay warm and shop. Any public facility open during business hours, such as the library, offers an escape from the cold.

"That would be my suggestion. Go to a public place where you can get warm. If we have a compounding problem due to a power loss, we will establish stations and we will get the word out. We have means of producing power even if there is a widespread loss," Shawan said.

The NWS advisory cautions the public against unnecessary outside activities during these periods of extreme cold. If you must be out in the cold, wear proper clothing. Experts say multiple layers of clothing work best. Use hats and gloves to protect extremities.

"When the temperatures get as low as 8 degrees, what is typical Southeast Missouri garb is not sufficient," Shawan said.

If you experience signs of hypothermia, such as numbness, shivering , confusion or drowsiness, call 9-1-1 or seek medical attention immediately.

The NWS is also asking the public to bring pets indoors or make sure they are properly cared for during this bout of extreme cold. Exposed pipes should be insulated to avoid plumbing repairs.

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