The weather forecast beginning Wednesday is for life-threatening cold and the possibility of snow accumulation.

Wind chills at -20 can cause frostbite in 30 minutes. Extremely cold weather can kill a person exposed to the severe cold.

Now is the time to prepare for the cold weather ahead. Be sure to have enough food, water, battery-powered light source, charged cell phone, full tank of gas and gather up extra blankets. Identify a place in your home that could be kept warm if the power goes out. If possible, bring pets inside or make sure there is a warm place out of the wind for them to stay.

If you must travel, be sure your car is in good condition and you have an emergency kit with extra blankets, food, water, battery cables, a flashlight with extra batteries, a way to signal for help, a shovel or kitty litter/sand for traction, rope or tow chain. Be sure your cell phone is charged and you have a charging cable.

If you must go outside, dress in layers. Hats, gloves, scarves, sweaters, long underwear can all help keep body heat close. The places most likely to be damaged by frostbite include nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers and toes. Change any wet clothes immediately. Early frostbite signs include white or grayish-yellow skin, skin that feels hard or waxy or numbness. Damaged skin needs to be warmed gently. Do not rub, place in hot water or hold over open flame. Try not to walk on feet or toes with frostbite. Use warm water or skin-to-skin contact to warm frozen skin.

Hypothermia is when the body temperature drops too low. Signs of hypothermia include shivering, feeling very tired, confusion, memory loss and slurred speech. If you suspect someone is suffering from hypothermia, get the person to a warm room or shelter, remove any wet clothing, focus on warming the center of the person such as chest, neck and head, use an electric blanket if available and provide a warm drink (no alcohol) if the person is able to hold a cup to drink. If the person has a temperature below 95 degrees Fahrenheit or is not improving, seek medical help.

If you do not have shelter, the warming shelter will be open in the basement of St. Patrick Chapel on 3rd Street starting at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 21 and remaining open until the weather is no longer life-threatening – probably Monday or Tuesday.

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