Get ready for a big plunge

January 23, 2019

Is it possible to be ready for inhuman levels of cold?

Yes — there are lots of ways to prepare yourself for the extreme cold temperatures expected Friday, whether you be man, beast or lodging.

The National Weather Service has a one-word forecast to describe Friday: “Cold.” While the day is expected to be mostly sunny, the high will be near -1.

Keeping the lights on

For those tasked with keeping the lights on and the heaters going, technology and software play an important role in making energy users stay in power.

Elaine Garry, president and CEO of People’s Energy Cooperative, said that when a customer’s power goes out, the utility company knows almost immediately, but a call to report it is still important.

Garry said it helps the company get an idea of the scope of the problem so they can get more people in sooner, if needed. Line workers are on call 24/7, even in the cold.

Garry has the following tips for all electricity users.

• If power goes out, bring people to central rooms and stay there. Keep doors to other rooms not in use closed to keep the heat you have.

• For those with fireplaces, stock up with wood and make sure fireplaces and chimneys have been inspected.

• Dress warmly.

Even with the possibility of people cranking up their heat and using more electricity, Garry said outages are more common in the summer for two reasons — a heavier load from air conditioning, and lightning strikes.

“We generally have more outages in the summer than in the winter,” Garry said adding that if ice storms and strong winds blow through the area, outages could take longer to repair than they would in warmer months.

Mobile homes, running water

Freezing water lines aren’t unique to manufactured or mobile homes, but a lack of maintenance can cause issues for those who live in one.

Jason Ree, a service manager for Homes of Harmony, offered some maintenance tips and recommendations to help prevent plumbing from freezing and to avoid inconvenience and costly repairs. His tips include:

• Have your furnace inspected. Replace dirty furnace filters so the furnace will operate efficiently.

• Check to make sure that the furnace and water heater chimneys are not obstructed by heavy snowfall.

• Check the skirting around the home. Close large gaps or holes that can allow cold air in. This might also prevent pests from entering under your home — they can do damage to the underbelly and insulation.

• Check the heat cables or heat tapes. Make sure that they are plugged into an outlet that is working. Exposed water pipes should be wrapped with foam or fiberglass insulation and kept dry. Repair any leaking pipes immediately.

• Check your home’s underbelly for holes or exposed insulation and repair them as needed.

• Leaving a faucet running slowly can help in some cases, but it’s not recommended. That’s because it might cause the main sewer line to freeze and plug up, leaving a chance for water to back up and flood your home.

• If your water supply freezes up, do not leave an unattended heater running under your home. It can cause a fire. Turning the furnace thermostat up might help thaw a frozen pipe. Follow the recommendations listed above. If further help is needed, contact a qualified plumber or repair professional who is familiar with manufactured homes.

Cold cattle?

Despite the cold temperatures, don’t expect to see cows in sweaters.

“It’s all going to be an inside strategy. They eat their sweaters if you will,” Alfredo DiCostanzo said. A professor and an extension specialist with the University of Minnesota, DiCostanzo said the bovines have thick, fluffy hair as well as thick skin and a nice layer of fat.

Cattle can handle a cold environment much better than we can, U of M extension specialist Megan Webb said. When it gets cold, the animals have increased food requirements to keep them warm, DiConstanzo said. A rule of thumb is that for each degree below the animal’s thermoneutral zone of around 20 degrees, increase the food supply by 1 percent.

Having bedding and an adequate wind break is also important to keep cattle warm.

“These individuals are very caring with their livestock and they’ve gone through this a lot,” DiConstanzo said of farmers with livestock. “I think these individuals are very well prepared for this and they love their animals.”

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