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As The Sub-Zero Weather Continues, Here's How To Stay Safe And Warm

The single-digit or below days are not over yet, though we did see flurries at our Colchester studio Tuesday.
Emily Alfin Johnson
The single-digit or below days are not over yet, though we did see flurries at our Colchester studio Tuesday.

We've now had over eight straight days with temperatures dropping below zero across the Champlain Valley according to the National Weather Service, and more cold's on the way this weekend: a high of minus 5 degrees.

Reminders From The Vermont Department Of Health

Credit Bob Kinzel / VPR
Well below zero Tuesday morning in Montpelier.

Extreme cold can be dangerous, so the Vermont Department of Health shared the following tips:

1. Shoveling can cause heart attacks. If you do not exercise regularly or are middle-aged or older, the American Heart Association suggests asking a doctor before shoveling. If you do shovel:

  • Avoid big meals and alcohol beforehand
  • Take breaks
  • Dress warmly and wear a hat

2. Beware of carbon monoxide poisoning. 

  • Clear snow away from vents of fuel-burning equipment
  • Never leave a car running inside your garage
  • Never run a generator indoors
  • Install carbon monoxide detectors in your home

3. Prevent frostbite and hypothermia.

  • Dress in layers
  • Stay dry
  • Cover your skin

According to the Vermont Department of Health website, “older adults and young children, people that spend a lot of time outdoors, and people with conditions that make it harder to regulate their body temperature are at highest risk."

Warm places to stay across the state

If you're looking for a warm place to stay, do not be afraid to ask says Erin Ahearn, director of homeless healthcare at Community Health Centers of Burlington. They run a shelter with 37 available beds.

Outside the Chittenden County area there are warming shelters across the state. Call 211 for details.

For more information — "ArcticBlast Tests Capacity Of Vermont's Homeless Shelters"

With cold, comes car problems

Credit Amy Kolb Noyes / VPR
Tuesday morning, reporter Amy Kolb Noyes' car registered minus 27 degrees in Morrisville.

Bad-Science on reddit writes, "everybody should check the radiator fluid of their car this time of year to see what it's freezing point is. If it is mixed 50/50, it will be good to at least -30 degrees, but if you ever add water to it, it might freeze at a MUCH warmer temp and damage the engine or cause it to overheat (When the fluid can't circulate). The tool to check it is just a few bucks, or lots of garages or parts stores will check it for free."

On preparing your car for the unexpected, Redditors suggest a kit with:

  • Hand warmers
  • Snacks high in calories and caffeine (Charlie3006 likes these, plus Goldfish crackers for the kids)
  • A couple warm blankets
  • Sand or kitty litter for traction
  • A battery booster

Check out the full thread to find out whether and why one might park nose-in during cold weather as Emily Alfin Johnson says her mother suggests, and other wisdom from Vermont redditors.

But the cold weather isn't all bad news. In fact, it's big business for some in Vermont.

According to William Canton of Fisher Auto Parts in Barre, car batteries have been going especially fast during the cold spell.

If you're hoping to avoid replacing the battery in your vehicle, Steve Kelson of Burlington Subaru suggests parking your car in a garage where it's protected from the extreme cold and wind.

Updated 1/2/2018 2:44 p.m. this story ran under the original headline "Here's How To Stay Safe During The Sub-Zero Weather This Week." It's been updated because this cold spell is now in it's second week — lucky us! It's also been updated to include more information on how Vermonters are handling the extreme weather.

Liam is Vermont Public’s public safety reporter, focusing on law enforcement, courts and the prison system.
Emily Alfin Johnson was a senior producer for Vermont Public Radio.
Henry worked for Vermont Public as a reporter from 2017 to 2023.
Emily Corwin reported investigative stories for VPR until August 2020. In 2019, Emily was part of a two-newsroom team which revealed that patterns of inadequate care at Vermont's eldercare facilities had led to indignities, injuries, and deaths. The consequent series, "Worse for Care," won a national Edward R. Murrow award for investigative reporting, and placed second for a 2019 IRE Award. Her work editing VPR's podcast JOLTED, about an averted school shooting, and reporting NHPR's podcast Supervision, about one man's transition home from prison, made her a finalist for a Livingston Award in 2019 and 2020. Emily was also a regular reporter and producer on Brave Little State, helping the podcast earn a National Edward R. Murrow Award for its work in 2020. When she's not working, she enjoys cross country skiing and biking.
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