weather: the deceptive killer
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[November 14, 2008]
has lived in Illinois or the Midwest knows that every winter it is
cold outdoors. We take it for granted. However, did you know that in
the past 12 winters, more people in Illinois have died from exposure
to winter temperatures than from tornadoes, severe thunderstorms,
flooding and lightning strikes -- combined? Since December 1996, a
total of 75 people have died across the state of Illinois from the
cold weather. "Many of these fatalities occurred when temperatures
were at normal winter levels," said Chris Miller, warning
coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service in
To help the people of Illinois become more aware of how to be
prepared for winter and the cold weather, the National Weather
Service has declared the week of Nov. 16-22 as Winter Weather
Preparedness Week in the state of Illinois. The National Weather
Service will be joining with the Illinois Emergency Management
Agency, American Red Cross, Illinois State Police, Illinois
Department of Transportation, Illinois Department on Aging and the
Office of the State Fire Marshal to educate the public about the
hazards of winter weather.
Winter weather is often called the "deceptive
killer" because winter storms and extreme cold result in nearly 80
fatalities annually across the United States. Numerous traffic
accidents, injuries from slips and falls, and numerous cases of
frostbite are also some of the consequences of the winter season.
"There are things that people can do to help themselves, as well as
their family, friends or neighbors, when temperatures drop to cold
wintertime levels," said Miller. Some of these things are listed
Keep a close watch on the elderly during the winter months.
Elderly people who slip and fall can easily break bones and then
become stranded outdoors in the cold, succumbing to hypothermia.
Dress for the cold. If you spend time outdoors -- whether it
is for work or recreation -- dress appropriately and stay dry.
If you become wet, even from perspiration, you will become cold
quicker. Cover as much skin as possible to avoid frostbite.
Be aware of the signs of hypothermia. Hypothermia is a
deadly condition when the body's temperature drops to 95 degrees
or lower. Other signs include uncontrollable shivering,
disorientation, slurred speech and drowsiness. Get the victim
IMMEDIATE medical attention. If medical care is not available,
warm the core of the body first and NOT the extremities. Warming
the extremities first, such as the hands and feet, can lead to
Plan your time outdoors accordingly. People have died from
exposure to the cold by getting lost or caught in a storm while
hunting and hiking. Be aware of the forecast and limit your time
spent outdoors in the cold. Frostbite can develop within one to
two hours when temperatures are in the 30s, or as quickly as 10
to 30 minutes when readings are around zero or colder.
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Have a winter storm survival kit in your auto. People have
died from hypothermia in their autos after being stranded in a
ditch or off to the side of the road, especially in remote or
rural areas. Having the following items can help:
Cell phone and charger
Blankets and extra clothing
Booster cables, a tow rope, and a sack of sand or cat litter
Water and high-calorie, nonperishable food
Winterize your home to save money on fuel costs. If you have
an alternate heating source, use it safely with proper
ventilation to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
Seek help for heating your home. There is assistance
available for low-income households to heat their homes during
the cold of winter, so don't be afraid to run your furnace.
Contact your electric or gas provider for assistance, or contact
the governor's Keep Warm Illinois program at 1-877-411-WARM
(9276) or on the Internet at
For more information about being adequately prepared for winter
weather, visit the "Winter Weather Safety" Web page of the National
Weather Service office in Lincoln:
[Text from file received from the
National Weather Service,