Warming Centers Open; Tollway Ups Patrols; Safety Tips Offered
The season's first blast of single-digit temperatures and subzero wind chills prompt warnings on what to do to be safe and during emergency situations.
The city of Joliet has opened its warming centers for the first time this winter as wind chills drop to 4 below Tuesday night and 8 below Wednesday night and temperatures go into the single digits both nights.
The Illinois Tollway is also stepping up its efforts to keep drivers safe by having patrols made on an hourly basis searching for motorists who might be stranded and need help. The increased patrols will continue until the wind chill temperatures rise above zero.
Anyone who needs to take shelter from the cold should go to one of these locations:
- Joliet Public Library, 150 N. Ottawa St., 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday;
- Joliet Public Library, 3395 Black road, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday;
- Louis Joliet Mall, Plainfield Road and Mall Loop Drive, 10:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday;
- Daybreak Shelter, 611 E. Cass St., overnight;
- MorningStar Mission, 350 E. Washington St., overnight.
Temperatures will climb during the day Wednesday, hitting an expected high of 24, the forecast said. However, there's also a 60 percent chance of afternoon snow (but just a half inch of accumulation) followed by an overnight low of 7 and wind gusts of up to 20 mph.
For the rest of the week, highs are expected to be in the low- to mid-20s during the day and anywhere from 11 to 17 at night, the forecast said. There is another possibility of snow on Thursday night and on Friday during the day.
(To see the latest forecast, click here.)
The Illinois Tollway's Zero Weather Road Patrols have been activated, and will continue through Thursday or until the wind chill rises above zero.
Hourly patrols are conducted on a 24-hour basis to search for motorists who might be stranded in disabled vehicles and to respond to call that come in via the cell phone *999 motorist assistance line, Illinois Tollway dispatch or Illinois State Police District 15, according to a tollway news release.
“The Illinois Tollway has provided help along the roadway to more than 180 drivers since Saturday during this dangerously cold weather,” Illinois Tollway Executive Director Kristi Lafleur said in the release.
The city of Joliet also issued these precautions:
• Remember to check on the elderly, those with medical conditions and those with special needs during periods of extreme cold weather.
• Stay indoors in a heated room as much as possible.
• Hang blankets over windows at night, but let the sun shine in during the day. Cover cracks around doors with rugs, newspapers, towels or other such material.
• When using alternative heat from a fireplace, wood stove, space heater, etc., use safeguards and ensure proper ventilation to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
• If your water pipes freeze:
- Shut off water at the main source. This can minimize the damage to your home.
- Call a plumber and contact your insurance agent.
- Never try to thaw a frozen pipe with an open flame or torch.
- Always be careful of the potential for electric shock in and around standing water.
• Avoid overexertion, such as shoveling heavy snow, pushing a car or walking in deep snow. The strain from the cold and the hard labor of snow shoveling could cause a heart attack at any age - a major cause of death in the winter. Don’t ignore chest pain or tightness in your chest.
• If you become stranded outdoors:
- Seek shelter to stay dry.
- Cover all exposed parts of the body.
- Do not eat snow as it will lower your body temperature. Melt it first.
• Watch for signs of frostbite and hypothermia. Frostbite is a severe reaction to cold exposure of the skin that can permanently damage fingers, toes, the nose and ear lobes. Symptoms are numbness and a white or pale appearance to the skin. When symptoms are apparent, seek medical help immediately. If medical help is not immediately available, slowly warm the affected areas.
Hypothermia, or low body temperature, is a condition brought on when the body temperature drops to less than 95 degrees F, which can be life-threatening. Symptoms include:
- Slow or slurred speech
- Memory loss
- Uncontrollable shivering
- Repeated stumbling
- Apparent exhaustion.
If these symptoms are detected, take the person's temperature. If below 95 degrees F, immediately seek medical attention. If medical help is not available, begin warming the person slowly. Always warm the body core first.
Do NOT warm the arms and legs first – this can force the cold blood toward the heart and can lead to heart failure. Get the person into dry clothing, and wrap them in a warm blanket covering the head and neck. Do not give the victim alcohol, drugs, coffee or any hot beverage. Warm broth is better.
The Illinois Tollway suggests these safety tips:
- Be sure your cell phone is fully charged before heading out.
- Be sure tires are properly inflated during cold weather. Tires lose a pound of pressure for every 10 degrees the temperature drops. Check your vehicle owner’s manual for recommended tire pressure.
- Keep your gas tank at least half full to avoid gas line freeze-up and ensure that you have extra driving time if the weather is unfavorable. Also, consider using winter or synthetic motor oil for colder temperatures, as conventional oils may thicken in colder temperatures. Check your vehicle manufacturer’s recommendations for oil that meets colder temperature ranges.
- Keep a cold weather safety kit in your car that includes gloves, boots, blankets, road flares, water and a flashlight with fresh batteries. Other items to include: jumper cables, first-aid kit, basic tool kit, hot packs, bottled water and non-perishable snacks such as granola or candy bars.
- Stranded motorists should turn on their emergency lights and remain in their vehicles until help arrives.
- Cell phone users should call *999 motorist assistance for roadway assistance or to report other motorists pulled over on the side of the road. Before calling, motorists should try to note the roadway and direction of travel and nearest milepost or crossroad so the stranded motorist can be quickly located.