Local authorities warn of record-setting cold temperatures: Keep indoors, check on neighbors, prepare with emergency kits

Forecasters predict brutal cold will hit the area Wednesday, posing threats to people, pets and homes. Photo credit LadyDragonflyCC. Used under a Creative Commons license.

With extremely cold temperatures forecast for the next few days, regional and county authorities are warning people to stay indoors and prepare their homes and vehicles.

The Mid-America Regional Council reported that record-setting cold temperatures are forecast for the greater Kansas City area. Authorities expect the coldest period of time to take place from 4 to 7 a.m. Wednesday, with 10-20 mph winds causing a wind chill as low as -17 degrees and an actual temperature of -1 degree.

Libraries will be open as warming centers across the county.

“The bitter cold temperatures and strong winds forecast for tomorrow can lead to life-threatening wind chills,” said Kyle Burns, emergency manager for the city of Overland Park and co-chair of the Metropolitan Emergency Managers Committee. “This extreme cold can lead to frostbite on exposed skin in a matter of minutes.”

Johnson County Emergency Management staff recommends staying inside as much as possible during the day and a half when the wind chill will stay below 0 degrees. In cases where people can’t stay indoors, they should cover all exposed skin and wear multiple layers of clothing, including hats and even face masks.

Trent Pittman, assistant director of community preparedness for Johnson County Emergency Management, said he always recommends having a winter weather preparedness kit in your vehicle: Keep a cellphone car charger, extra blankets and non-perishable food and water in your vehicle, but be sure to keep food and water indoors between trips so that it won’t freeze.

Schools will determine whether they will close so that students don’t have to wait outdoors for the bus, Pittman added.

Steps to prepare for extreme cold

People should also keep a battery-powered radio, flashlights and extra batteries in their supply kits. The Federal Emergency Management Agency also suggests including in the following: rock salt to melt ice on walkways, sand to improve traction, snow shovels and adequate clothing to keep warm.

“If your furnace runs into issues, make sure you have neighbors, relatives or family members, that you can go over to their place if you need to, just to make it through these cold few days,” Pittman said.

The arctic blast headed toward Shawnee Mission was fodder for Asbury United Methodist Church’s sign writer.

Johnson County Libraries serve as community warming centers during cold weather. Even during school closures, library staff make efforts to keep their library branches open during regularly scheduled operating hours, according to Johnson County Library. Patrons may call 913-826-4600 to check hours of operation for their nearest library branch, or visit jocolibrary.org.

MARC advises people to take the following extra precautions:

  • Bring pets indoors.
  • Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. In extreme cold, let a trickle of cold water drip from the faucet to help prevent pipes from freezing.
  • Avoid traveling by car, but if you must be on the road make sure you have an emergency supply kit in your car. Keep your gas tank as full as possible in case you are stuck on the highway for an extended period of time.
  • Dress appropriately for winter weather. Wear loose, lightweight layers of warm clothing, and wear a hat – half of your body’s heat can be lost without it. Mittens will protect your hands better than gloves. Cover your mouth to protect your lungs from extreme cold.
  • Stay informed. Listen to local TV and radio stations or follow your city or county government on social media to get updated emergency information.

“It’s also important to check on neighbors who may need assistance or extra support,” said Ron Starbuck, emergency preparedness program for the Wyandotte County Health Department. “Older adults and children can be particularly susceptible to the risks of extreme cold.”

For more information on preparing for severe weather and other types of emergencies, visit PrepareMetroKC.org.