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Tips for Florida residents on how to prepare for freezing temperatures

Sunday morning temperatures will drop down into the 20s, low 30s
Sunday low temperatues, Jan. 30, 2022
Posted at 1:15 PM, Jan 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-28 18:30:38-05

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The coldest temperatures in about a decade will arrive in South Florida and the Treasure Coast this weekend.

That means many residents have not encountered temperatures this cold in quite some time.

Sunday morning's temperatures will drop down into the 20s and low 30s and with the wind, it will feel even colder.

RELATED: South Florida residents buying firewood, propane ahead of frigid forecast

We've put together a few best practices to keep you, your pets and property safe from the frigid weather.

Heating Advice

Many people use small heaters to heat their homes when temperatures get chilly during the winter.

But the Palm Beach County Fire Rescue warns residents to use space heaters with caution.

They say that the heating elements in some space heaters reach nearly 350 degrees. To avoid fire hazards, make sure your heater is placed at least 3 feet away from other objects.

Also, use newer ones with a tip-over or shutoff mechanism.

The Centers for Disease Control offers this advice when heating your home:

  • Use fireplaces, wood stoves or other combustion heaters only if they are properly vented to the outside and do not leak gas from the flue or exhaust into the indoor air space
  • Do not burn paper in a fireplace
  • Make sure you have proper ventilation if you must use a kerosene heater
  • Avoid using fuel-burning devices such as grills, which release deadly carbon monoxide
  • Never leave children unattended near a space heater
  • Make sure that the cord of an electric space heater is not a tripping hazard, but do not run the cord under carpets or rugs

Florida Power & Light says if you need to use your central heating system, set your thermostat to 68 degrees and keep the fan set on "auto." Every degree below 68 saves you five percent on heating costs.

To save even more, lower your thermostat to 65 degrees or cooler at bedtime or when you're away from home.

What Is Hypothermia?

Hypothermia is an ailment that most people think can only impact people living in much colder climates than Florida.

However, it can impact people even when temperatures are in the 40s.

It's defined as prolonged exposure to very cold temperatures, causing your body to lose heat faster than it's produced.

A body temperature that is too low affects the brain, making the victim unable to think clearly or move well.

While hypothermia is most likely at very cold temperatures, it can even occur when temperatures are above 40 degrees if a person becomes chilled from rain, sweat or submersion in cold water, according to the CDC.

People who are at most risk include:

  • Older adults with inadequate food, clothing, or heating
  • Babies sleeping in cold bedrooms
  • People who remain outdoors for long periods — the homeless, hikers, hunters, etc.
  • People who drink alcohol or use illicit drugs.

Some of the signs of hypothermia include:

Adults:

  • Shivering
  • Exhaustion or feeling very tired
  • Confusion
  • Fumbling hands
  • Memory loss
  • Slurred speech
  • Drowsiness

Babies:

  • Bright red, cold skin
  • Very low energy

Hypothermia is a medical emergency. If the person's temperature is below 95 degrees, get them medical attention immediately.

Cold Weather Preparedness
The Florida Division of Emergency Management emphasizes the "5 P's" of cold weather preparedness.

Should I Cover My Pipes?

Pipes freezing and breaking isn't something that most Florida residents think about. Most experts generally accept that most pipe-bursting events occur when the weather is 20 degrees or colder.

Most forecasters are not expecting the temperatures to be that cold this weekend.

However, homes in Florida are much more susceptible to freezing temperatures if the pipes are uninsulated or outside.

Homeowners can use insulation sleeves and pipe wrappings, available at most hardware stores, to cover them from the cold.

If you think your pipes are susceptible to freezing, the CDC offers these other tips:

  • Leave all water taps slightly open so they drip continuously
  • Keep the temperature inside your home warm
  • Allow heated air to reach pipes. For example, open cabinet doors beneath the kitchen and bathroom sinks.
Dog in sweater
This Dec. 5, 2015 photo shows an 8-year old Chihuahua named Coco out in the winter cold in his new sweater.

How To Protect Your Pet

Winter weather can be deadly for pets even in Florida where pets are not accustomed to colder temperatures. Officials in Palm Beach County offered the following tips to assure that pets stay safe and warm.

Keep pets indoors and warm

The best advice for the winter cold is to keep pets indoors with you and your family. If it's too cold for you to be outside, it's probably too cold for your dog or cat. If the temperature falls below 40 degrees, pets need to be brought indoors or provided adequate ways to stay warm such as extra blankets, coats, heaters or hay.

Check your car before starting the engine

During the winter, outdoor cats or other animals will search for warmer hiding places such as under the hoods of cars. Honk your horn or tap the hood of your car before starting the engine so they can escape safely.

Provide a cozy bed to keep warm

Make sure your companion animals have warm places to sleep that are away from drafts and protect them from the weather. A cozy dog or cat bed is perfect.

Speak out if you see a pet left in the cold

If you see any animal in distress, please make note of the type of pet and exact address or location and contact Palm Beach County Animal Care & Control at 561-233-1200, extension 0.

Provide special care for horses and livestock

Our larger pets often cannot be brought indoors; however, there are many ways to provide safe, warm housing for them. Be sure horses and livestock have access to a barn or three-sided structure to protect them against wind and cold. Blankets will keep a horse warm and dry from rain. Provide additional hay and shavings for insulation.

Provide your pet with plenty of food and water

Your pet should always have access to fresh food and water.