Monday, January 6, 2014

Jack Frost isn't just nipping at your nose!

Uff da, it's a cold one out der, eh Ole?

The biggest cold snap in 18 years has settled over the Midwest, bringing dead batteries, big heating bills, and the possibility of frostbite and hypothermia. Governor Dayton thought the danger was great enough to cancel schools throughout the state today. This level of deep freeze could turn a chilly wait for the bus into a deadly one.

Still, as a hardy Minnesotan, I gathered the family yesterday and headed for church, where I saw maybe 90% of our usual parishioners. The rest would have been there, but their car batteries were dead. With the greatest sense of irony, we then attended a full house screening of "Frozen" at the local cinema while the car thermometer read -15F.

The rest of the world is talking about a "polar vortex" and record cold, but we Minnesotans are looking forward to the cold. Bring it on--even colder please! Maybe if it gets cold enough, h*ll will freeze over and the Vikings will win the Superbowl! Ok, not this year I guess.

Anyway, the rest of this post is under the category of things your mother already told you, but here goes: preventing frostbite and hypothermia.

1. PLAN AHEAD: don't travel at all if you don't have to. Apparently Indianapolis has declared a red level travel emergency, and you will be arrested if you are driving and you aren't a policeman, fireman, or dog catcher. Here in MN, it's never illegal to drive sober, but sometimes it's stupid. If you must drive, carry a cell phone, warm clothes, boots, a sleeping bag, and other gear to stay warm if you stall or get in an accident.

2. LIMIT YOUR TIME OUTSIDE: I GO out in this weather, but I don't STAY out in it for too long. And, I cover up pretty much everything but my eyeballs. Everywhere else, a ski mask means you are about to rob a bank. Here, it means you ain't stupid.

3. DRESS IN LAYERS, lots of layers. Preferably, the inner layer has some kind of battery power. Wool socks (or no socks if you're lucky enough to have some Uggs--my estimation of surfer dudes has gone up immeasureably after discovering these brilliant foot cuddlers). Mittens, not gloves. Knit hats, not ear warmers over your New Era.

4. WATCH FOR FROSTBITE: red and prickly or white and numb skin needs to be covered and warmed gently and slowly. Get out of the weather and into a warm place. Don't massage numb extremities, just warm slowly near a heat source or in warmish water. Ears, fingers and toes are most susceptible.

5. PROTECT AGAINST HYPOTHERMIA: get warm and dry as soon as possible if you have prolonged exposure, especially if you or someone in your party is drowsy and cool to the touch. Babies are especially predisposed to hypothermia.

6. LEAVE THE BAILEY'S OUT of the hot chocolate. Alcohol can accelerate development of frostbite and hypothermia. Not to mention dulling of the brain's ability to recognize the signs of impending danger.

7. AS A LAST RESORT: cut open your tauntaun and stuff your buddy inside.

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