Weathering The Cold: Tips To Make It Through The Polar Vortex

January 30, 2019 GMT

Large portions of Northeast Pennsylvania will awaken to a single-digit sunrise this morning.

By tonight, temperatures will sink below zero, said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Tom Kines.

“The record of minus seven in 1948, is going to be challenged,” he said. “We’re going to get close to that.”

As the mercury drops, here are tips to keep your car, home and yourself safe:


• Battery: Maintaining a car’s battery is the one of top priorities, according to Nina Waskevich, AAA vice president of brand and membership.

A battery older than three years has a chance of going dead, she said. When shutting off a car at night, make sure to turn off the heater, radio and windshield wipers and unplug any car chargers. Extremely cold temperatures cause the car oil to thicken, so it takes longer when starting a car, and the battery is pulling more energy, she said. She also suggested starting the car every couple of hours in frigid weather to keep the battery going.

Pay attention to engine cranking speeds, said Tom Voytek of Tom’s Garage in Scranton.

“If the last time you started the car it was cold outside, and the engine turned over like it’s supposed to, that tells you the starting system, including the battery, is in good condition,” he said.


• Vehicle temperature: Use a garage to avoid exposing a vehicle to cold temperatures. No garage? Waskevich recommends parking in a place where the vehicle won’t be subjected to high winds.

“Some people like to use car covers or hood covers,” she said. “It’s going to help keep the snow off the vehicle, but it can also keep warmth in the vehicle.”

• Tires: Tires need to be in good condition, even if a vehicle has four-wheel drive, Waskevich said.

Those with a front-wheel or rear-wheel drive vehicle should be more cautious because there will not be total control driving in snow.

n Winter-preparedness kit: Those with a longer commute should keep a winter-preparedness kit in their vehicle that contains a blanket, a good pair of gloves, a hat, an extra phone charger or car charger, medications, water, non-perishable food and snacks, snow removal tools or small shovel to help dig out tires should the car veer off the road, and cat litter for added traction and additional weight in the back of the car for those with front-wheel drive, Waskevich said.

n Clearing your car: Drivers must remove snow and ice from their vehicles’ hoods and roofs. If snow or ice from a vehicle strikes another vehicle or a person and causes death or injury, the driver can be ticketed, according to Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

Home and personal safety

• Space heaters: Place a space heater on a level, hard and non-flammable surface. Plug power cords directly into outlets and never into an extension cord or power strip. Turn off portable space heaters any time the room is unattended or when going to sleep. Keep children, pets and flammable objects at least three feet away from heating equipment, according to Red Cross officials.

• Carbon monoxide: Make sure smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and their batteries, are fresh. Be aware of carbon monoxide poisoning signs, such as condensation on walls and windows, pets acting sluggish and residents suffering flu-like symptoms or extreme fatigue, according to UGI. Malfunctioning heating units or other fuel appliances and blocked chimneys can result in carbon monoxide poisoning, which is more common during cold weather when heating units are on and windows and doors are closed tightly, Secondary heating sources, such as space heaters, can increase the chance of carbon monoxide poisoning, officials warn.

• Temperature maintenance: In extreme cold weather, heating units can have difficulty maintaining the temperature on thermostats based on the system capacity and other factors. If equipment is not functioning properly, contact a heating contractor, according to UGI.

• Frozen pipes: To avoid frozen pipes, run water, even at a trickle. Maintaining thermostats at a consistent temperature day and night also helps combat frozen pipes. Additionally, opening cabinet doors allows warmer air from the room to get to the pipes near sinks, according to the Red Cross.

• Personal safety: Avoid driving or leaving the house unless it’s necessary.

“The biggest thing is, if you don’t have to drive — don’t,” Waskevich said.

UGI recommends staying indoors as much as possible. If a home is without heat for any reason, seek shelter at a warming station. If you have to go outside, the Red Cross recommends wearing layers of clothing, a hat, mittens and waterproof and insulated boots. All pets should be brought inside.

Contact the writer:

drosler@timesshamrock.com 570-348-9100, x 5365 @droslerTT