People need to take extra precautions in sub-zero weather

By: MARK BARNA
January 10, 2011
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photo - Colorado Springs firefighter Devin Smith and Colorado Springs Police officer Michelle Nethercot comfort a dog as its owner is extricated from her vehicle that rolled over once in snowy conditions on I-25 Sunday, January 9, 2011. CSFD acting Lt. Carrick Patterson said the driver was transported to an area hospital with non life-threatening injuries. "The dog was shaken up as expected but appears to be ok," he said. Nethercot kept the dog on the scene in her cruiser until a relative of the driver arrived. Photo by MARK REIS, THE GAZETTE
Colorado Springs firefighter Devin Smith and Colorado Springs Police officer Michelle Nethercot comfort a dog as its owner is extricated from her vehicle that rolled over once in snowy conditions on I-25 Sunday, January 9, 2011. CSFD acting Lt. Carrick Patterson said the driver was transported to an area hospital with non life-threatening injuries. "The dog was shaken up as expected but appears to be ok," he said. Nethercot kept the dog on the scene in her cruiser until a relative of the driver arrived. Photo by MARK REIS, THE GAZETTE 

With temperatures plummeting, Pikes Peak residents should take precautions when driving and venturing outdoors, experts say.

Most main highways are clear of snow, but many streets remain slushy or snow-packed, said Cpl. Andrew Baker of the Teller County Sheriff’s Department.

“People need to slow down,” he said.

Cleared roads can also be deceptive. “The freezing temperatures create sheets of black ice,” Baker said.

People shoveling snow should be in good shape, and those with heart conditions shouldn’t be shovelling, said Jeremy DeWall, an emergency room doctor at Penrose-St. Francis Hospital.

“Play it smart, be prepared and stay hydrated,” DeWall advised those venturing outdoors.

In freezing conditions, people may be tempted to supplement their furnaces with space heaters. Fire Marshall Kerry Smith, of Black Forest Fire and Rescue, says people should keep flammable materials away from the heaters.

Smith said that if the space heater is not absolutely necessary, think twice about it. “We advise people not to use space heaters.” People also need to realize that pets are vulnerable in single digit weather, said Libby Hoskins, vice president of Pals Forever Animal Rescue.

Paws, which are bare skin, are especially vulnerable. “Pets get frostbite just like humans do,” Hoskins said.

Freezing temperatures can deaden vehicle batteries. To avoid it, drivers should crank the engine with their foot off the gas for no more than 15 seconds, said Ron Fisk, service manager at Tire World, a vehicle repair shop with several locations in Colorado Springs. If the vehicle doesn’t start, let the starter cool for five minutes, then try again, with the gas pedal floored.

For older cars with a carburetor, Fisk advises pumping the gas twice, then holding the gas pedal halfway down while turning the key.

Bursting pipes in homes are a danger in freezing weather. Scott Martinez, of Olson Plumbing and Heating, encourages homeowners to keep sink cabinets open to allow warm air to circulate, and to run a thin stream of cold water through faucets.

Despite the cold, flights Monday at the Colorado Springs Airport departed on time, an airport spokeswoman said. The only delays were due to the time it takes to de-ice planes.

Monday’s daytime low was four degrees, though that’s still a far cry from the record, set in 1962, of minus 20 degrees, meteorologist Patrick Cioffi of the National Weather Service in Pueblo said.

Tuesday night’s low was expected to be minus one, with a wind chill of about minus seven.

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