WEATHER: Cold a threat to people and their possessions and pets

January 09, 2007 12:00 am

By JAYSON JACOBY

The well-chilled air poised to invade Baker County later this week won't break any records for frigidity, but it could pose problems for people, their possessions and their pets.

Following are some tips for protecting each group during the coming cold snap.

People

The two main threats are frostbite and hypothermia.

Fortunately, you need only one strategy to fight both afflictions.

The basic idea is that you'll stay warmer if you wear several thin garments rather than one thick one.

The layer that lies against your skin should quickly wick away sweat. Polypropylene and polyester do this well; cotton does not.

The outer layer should repel wind and water.

For the in-between layers, don wool, fleece or goose down.

Don't forget to wear a stocking cap, since as much as half your body's heat loss happens at your head.

Mittens, which allow your fingers to share their heat, ward off subzero temperatures better than gloves, which expose each finger to the frigid air.

Pets

Animals (including you) need more calories when it's cold, so don't skimp on the kibble.

Pets also need fresh water, too, but it won't remain liquid long when the temperature tumbles. If you don't own a heated water bowl, check your pet's drink supply occasionally to make sure it's still drinkable.

Pets that stay outside should have a sleeping place that's sheltered from the wind, such as an insulated house or a nest made from hay.

And before you twist your car's ignition key, make sure your cat (or someone else's cat) hasn't crawled under the hood to snuggle against the comparatively warm engine.

Around the house

To protect your pipes, disconnect hoses from outdoor faucets, install an insulated cover over the faucets, and close foundation vents to prevent polar air from infiltrating the crawl space.

Behind the wheel

Let your car idle for three to five minutes before you drive away in the morning.

This reduces wear on the engine's internal parts during the period after start-up, when the lubricating oil oozes rather than flows.

Check the fluid in the radiator to be sure it contains enough antifreeze to foil freezing — a 50-50 cocktail will protect down to about 34 below zero.

Don't overdo the antifreeze, though — a concentration of more than 60 percent antifreeze can make your engine more susceptible to freezing.

Strive to keep your fuel tank close to full. The fuller the tank, the less room there is for air, which can in chilly weather condense into water. Your engine doesn't want watery gas.

Unless you park on a steep slope, you'll do well to avoid setting your parking brake at night. The cable that controls the brake can freeze, possibly leaving you stranded.