While the official start of winter is not for several weeks, parts of Illinois have already experienced the first snowfall of the season.
The Illinois Emergency Management Agency, Illinois Department of Public Health, Illinois Department of Labor and the National Weather Service are encouraging people to begin preparing now for extreme cold, snow and ice.
“In Illinois, it’s not a question of if, but rather when will snow, ice and sub-zero temperatures occur,” acting IEMA Director Alicia Tate-Nadeau said. “Being unprepared for winter weather is not only inconvenient, but it can be dangerous. That’s why we are encouraging all Illinoisans to take a few minutes to put together your home and vehicle emergency supply kits and review the steps you should take to stay safe during hazardous winter weather.”
In terms of weather, 2019 has been a record-breaking year in Illinois. The new year brought a polar vortex that crippled most of the Midwest, including blanketing Illinois with life-threatening temperatures for several days.
According to the NWS, the coldest temperature on record occurred
Jan. 31, 2019, when the mercury dropped to minus 38 degrees near Mount Carroll in Carroll County. The previous record of minus 36 degrees was set in 1999.
From 2008-18, there were 788 fatalities related to cold temperatures in Illinois, which is more than heat (227), tornadoes (23), floods (38) and severe storms/lightning (17) combined. In the United States, about
700 deaths occur each year from hypothermia. Infants and the elderly are particularly at risk of hypothermia.
“There are several dangerous health conditions that can occur specifically in winter weather,” Illinois Department of Public Health Director Ngozi Ezike said. “It’s important to watch for signs of extreme cold. Hypothermia, when a person’s body temperature drops below 95 degrees Fahrenheit, can occur both outdoors and indoors and can be fatal.
“Frostbite occurs when your extremities (fingers, toes, nose and ears) are exposed to cold weather. The skin may become stiff and numb leading to severe tissue damage. Also watch for symptoms of chest pain when shoveling snow, which can be associated with overexertion. Know the warning signs of dangerous cold weather health conditions in order to stay safe and healthy during the winter.”
A winter weather preparedness guide with tips for staying safe is available at www.Ready.Illinois.gov.