Cold spell hits area with force

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 24, 2003

Lawrence County turned into a polar ice cap this weekend with this winter's lowest temperatures and most brutal wind chills.

Today, the National Weather Service is forecasting temperatures in the low 20s with below zero wind chills. Tonight, the temperature is forecasted to be near 10 degrees. Temperatures are forecasted to only rise to approximately 30 degrees Saturday.

The Ironton-Russell Bridge has been monitored for possible closure.

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Cecil Townsend, county manager for the Ohio Department of Transportation, said he measured the bridge temperature twice last night. When the temperatures near zero, ODOT has to start monitoring it. If the bridge's temperature reaches -5 degrees, it will be shut down, he said.

Last night, the bridge temperature was 9 degrees, and Townsend said with temperatures gradually warming, he does not anticipate a bridge closure at this time.

Medical professionals are offering at least one piece of advice: stay inside.

"Do what you need to do and get back in," Jim Jacobs, a registered nurse in the Cabell-Huntington Hospital emergency room, said.

If one does have to brave the cold, Jacobs recommended bundling up by wearing scarves, heavy coats, earmuffs, hats and even carrying extra gloves.

"It's not just a fashion statement, it's survival," he said.

Most people who wind up in the ER for frostbite or other cold-related conditions are not ones who frequently work in the cold, but ones who are not used to these weather conditions, he said. Young children and the elderly are particularly at risk, he said.

Thursday night, Jacobs said two people with hypothermia were brought to the ER. One was lost in the woods. The other was a car accident victim who had been in a car for a long period of time before emergency personnel could arrive.

"We'll probably see more of that this evening," he said.

Jacobs recommended keeping blankets in cars and carrying cell phones when traveling.

Caffeine and alcohol also worsen effects of the cold, he said. Caffeine makes one's ears, fingers and other extremities more susceptible to freeze injuries, while alcohol gives one a false sense of warmth, tempting someone to stay outside longer.

Cold weather can also harm the four-footed family members.

Wendy Smith, D.V.M., of the Proctorville Animal Clinic, said dogs and cats staying outside need adequate shelter if they are not brought inside. Also, some animals' water can freeze, so it is important to check the water to make sure it has not frozen. She recommended possibly keeping animals in a garage to keep them out of the wind and getting warm, thick bedding.

Some animals, just like some people, are also more susceptible to the cold.

"A chihuahua will freeze stiff," she said.

Smaller animals with little fur will feel the effects quicker than larger ones with thick fur, she said. Also, older animals, just like older people, are more likely to be harmed by cold weather.

Smith also stressed the importance of taking care of one's livestock, particularly horses that are likely to become dehydrated during the winter. She said one especially needs to make sure that a horse has plenty of water.

By the middle of next week, Lawrence Countians can expect slight relief with forecasted temperatures in the 40s.