LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Louisville is bracing for a blast of extreme cold by issuing a warning to the public.
"As Foghorn Leghorn used to say, it's going to be colder than a nudist on an iceberg. OK? It's going to be really cold," said John Gordon, the director of the National Weather Service in Louisville.
Gordon said we are in for the coldest temperatures since 1994. He said between 8-10 p.m. on Tuesday "a clipper will come through bringing a nasty plunge that will mean a low of 4 degrees tonight in Derby City U.S.A."
Gordon warns that by 10 a.m. Wednesday, Louisville will be in the single digits with a windchill of 19 below zero, and Indiana will be even colder. The good news is that by Thursday, temperatures will rebound into the mid-20s in time for a possible inch or two of snow by Friday morning. But the weekend will bring temperatures back into the 40s and 50s.
The deep freeze means the city is mobilizing. Emergency Management Director Edward Jody said agencies held a conference call Tuesday with area organizations to identify needs and possible staffing issues.
Louisville Metro EMS Lt. Colonel Jesse Yarbrough said people need to take common-sense precautions in the cold like dressing in layers and choosing mittens over gloves for warmth. He also advised the public to pay attention to your skin. If it is red and tingling, you could be in danger of frostbite. He warned that warming up too close to space heaters can also be dangerous, because you may not be aware of possible burns. But Yarbrough said EMS will be operating and ready to respond, if people need help.
First responders are taking precautions to ensure their own safety. Louisville Fire and Rescue's Major Bobby Cooper said the department is asking firefighters to dress warm and bring extra clothing. Cooper said they will have a rehab bus and TARC buses when they respond to a fire so firefighters can get out of the cold.
Cooper warned that home heating is second only to cooking as the leading cause of house fires. He warns that if you or your family hear smoke detectors going off, you should get out of the home. He suggests knowing two ways to exit. He said never use an oven or burner to heat a home, and if you use a space heater, make sure it is plugged directly into the wall and not an extension cord or power strip. Cooper also said to keep heaters 3 feet away from anything combustible.
The Louisville Fire Department is working with the Louisville Water Company to keep hydrants maintained. But Cooper said the public can help by shoveling snow or removing ice from 3 feet around hydrants.
City road maintenance crews and waste collectors will be using extra equipment like boots, coveralls and hand warmers, according to Harold Adams from Louisville Public Works. He said road crews will be doing a "mock snow event," so they can stay in vehicles most of the day. Others are encouraged to take warming breaks in vehicles as often as needed.
Louisville Metro Animal Services is telling people to take care of their pets. If you can't bring them inside, take measures to keep them warm. They also warn that outdoor pets will need fresh water, since it will freeze quickly in the frigid temperatures. LMAS is also partnering with the Arrow Fund to supply free straw to pet owners to insulate dog houses and outdoor accommodations. The straw is being given out at the Manslick Road facility. If anyone needs help or wants to report a pet not cared for in the cold, call (502)-473-PETS (7387).
White flags will be out at shelters for the city's homeless. Louisville's Chief of Resilience Eric Friedlander said there are 100 additional beds at Wayside Christian Mission. The Salvation Army and St. Vincent DePaul are also opening their doors to more people who need to get out of the cold. Friedlander said they know that people don't always come in to the shelters, so street outreach teams, Fed with Faith and Exit Zero will go out into the homeless camps to offer supplies and help keeping warm.
The Salvation Army's Major Roy Williams said the organization is reaching out to people who live under viaducts and in tents. He said their doors are open 24 hours a day.
"It's way too cold to live out there," he said. "If you see somebody, send them our way. We don't want any fatalities this evening."
With wind chills dropping to -15 down to -25 across Kentuckiana, frostbite can set in within 10 to 30 minutes.
Norton ER director Dr. Robert Couch said the dangers of frostbite are real when the temperatures get that low.
"Fingers can auto-amputate after a period of time," Couch said. "They can turn black, and the tissue dies because of the tissue destruction from the freezing."
Frostbite symptoms start with cold, prickling skin and numbness, and eventually, skin turns red, white, or blue.
Many schools cancelled class, and doctors say that's the right call -- to avoid kids waiting out at the bus stop.
"It's a good idea to keep the children out of this weather that we're going to experience because some of these cold injuries can occur insiduously, and people may not recognize some of the effects as their body temperature is starting to drop," said Couch. "Not only that, but if there was someone out there who didn't have the proper gloves or headgear to wear in this windchill, they could have tissue freezing, frostbite, and tissue destruction that can occur in a matter of minutes."
Hypothermia symptoms include shivering, slurred speech, clumsiness, confusion, and eventually, passing out.
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