Mt. Vernon Register-News

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January 3, 2014

Experts offer safety tips for cold weather

MT. VERNON — Harsh winter weather is expected to hit the Mt. Vernon area early next week, pushing temperatures down to the single digits or lower and possibly producing new snowfall.

In light of this dour forecast, local emergency officials are urging the public to use caution when dealing with the cold weather.

“If you’re going to be outside, make sure to dress warm and in layers,” said Kevin Sargent, Mt. Vernon’s assistant fire chief and Emergency Management Agency coordinator. “Wind chills could push it to 20 below (zero). … And don’t forget about your pets.”

Both Mt. Vernon hospitals are available as warming centers, as are any of the State of Illinois offices in town, Sargent said.

“If you have elderly family members, make sure they have heat,” Sargent said.

According to a special weather statement from the Illinois Emergency Alert System, the arctic cold temperatures will begin Sunday night and continue into the first part of next week.

Monday and Tuesday are expected to be the coldest days of that week, with highs only reaching the single digits or teens and low temperatures at, near or below zero. Expected wind could make the temperatures even lower.

If the weather predictions hold true, early next week will see some of the coldest temperatures in Mt. Vernon since the mid-1990s, according to the weather statement.

One of the main concerns for Sargent is that residents be careful using space heaters, which can present a major fire hazard.

If you use a space heater, make sure to keep it at least three feet away from any combustible materials, such as furniture or curtains, Sargent said.

Also, never use a frayed or damaged cord with a space heater and don’t place a rug over the extension cord for the heater if you are using one, said Mike Huntman, fire chief for the Jefferson Fire Protection District. The extension cord should also be rated at the same level as the heater, he said.

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