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Cold grips the Fay-West

| Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2007

It's cold outside. And, according to weather forecasters, there's no end in sight.

"We're in the icebox, so to speak," said Bob Coblentc, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Pittsburgh.

The Fay-West area received 1.5 inches of snow over the weekend. Higher elevations, such as Chalk Hill, received more than 7 inches.

Don't think that's the end of it. Coblentc says another system is expected to come through the area today, leaving behind another inch of snow.

But the real story is the cold temperatures, says the meteorologist.

"The highs will be in the 20s, and the lows will be between 8 and 10 degrees," Coblentc said. "And there's no break in the foreseeable future."

And as the temperatures drop, Fayette County Emergency Management officials worry about the old and young.

Infants younger than 1 year should not sleep in a cold room because they lose their body heat quicker, and unlike adults, infants cannot make enough body heat by shivering. Babies should be dressed in warm clothes and a warm indoor temperature should be maintained, says Fayette Emergency Management Director Roy "Barney" Shipley.

If a warm indoor temperature cannot be maintained, temporary arrangements to stay elsewhere with the child should be made. It is not recommended that adults sleep with infants as they may roll on the baby.

Because of less physical activity and a slower metabolism, older adults often make less body heat.

People over 65 years of age should check the temperature in their home often during severely cold weather, says Shipley.

Shipley says anyone going out in the cold must dress appropriately.

Wear a hat, scarf or knit mask to cover your face and mouth, and sleeves that are snug to the wrist. Mittens should be worn because they're warmer than gloves. A water-resistant coat and boots and several layers of loose clothing should also be worn because they better trap body heat.

Even when someone is covered and believes they're warm, they should not ignore it if they're still shivering. That's a sign that the body is losing heat. Shipley advises returning indoors to avoid hypothermia.

Along with shivering, signs of hypothermia in adults include exhaustion, confusion, memory loss, slurred speech and drowsiness; in infants, signs include a bright red appearance on cold skin and very low energy.

If a person's temperature is under 95 degrees or if they're unconscious, call 911 or immediately take the person to the hospital.

"By heeding weather warnings, it is sometimes possible to avoid driving during severe winter storms," said Shipley. "If you must travel, prepare yourself and your vehicle before the trip."

Jay Ofsanik, with PennDOT District 12, says when out on the road, give yourself extra driving time, make sure all windows and outside mirrors are clear of snow and ice, watch out for black ice, be aware of bridges and shaded areas that can freeze before other road surfaces and keep a safe distance between vehicles.

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