Area cold snap dangerous to all

Published 3:53 pm Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Figuring in the wind chill for Thursday night, temperatures are expected feel like the single digits and unless precautions are taken, exposed water pipes can and will freeze and burst, pets and livestock could possibly be harmed, and people can experience a wide range of cold-related injuries from the curious child sticking his tongue on a frosty pipe and getting it stuck; to frostbite; to a person suffering from hypothermia when exposed to the cold for too long and possibly death.

With a hard freeze expected over the next four days for Pearl River County and cold not experienced in the area in more than a dozen years, the National Weather Service is warning people to be pro-active against the cold weather.

“There is good news and there is bad news,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Phil Grigsby. The good news, he said, is that with temperatures in the mid-20’s last night, tonight there would be a slight warming of a few degrees. “Wednesday into Thursday there is going to be a little warming,” said Grigsby, adding that with a 60 percent chance of rain Thursday evening, a mix of snow or sleet could occur. “It won’t last that long,” said Grigsby of the snow. “We do not expect any accumulation.”

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But, he added, with a 15 m.p.h. wind forecast for Thursday night, the wind chill factor would make the air feel like it is in single digits instead of the mid-20’s. “We are expecting a wind chill in single digits,” said Grigsby.

The bad news, he continued, is that once the warm front passes through, Picayune can expect temperatures to drop even more. “The bad news is it is going to get a lot colder,” he said. “The coldest in this region since probably 1989.”

Grigsby said NWS was forecasting temperatures as cold as 10 degrees for Friday night, but that by then, the wind would have dropped off and not be a factor. “This is a very significant cold snap,” said Grigsby, adding that parts of the county may be lucky enough to get as warm as 14 or 15 degrees. The high for Saturday is only expected to reach 30 degrees.

Most importantly, said Grigsby, is that the cold spell Picayune and the surrounding areas is forecast for is dangerous enough for people to take precautions against it. He went onto to explain that once the temperature drops below freezing, exposed pipes and hardware become vulnerable to freezing and bursting. “Once it hits 25 degrees, that is when you start to really see problems with pipes freezing,” he said.

To protect water pipes, Grigsby suggested wrapping them with pipe insulation and maybe letting faucets drip very slowly.

Lamar County Agent Clayton Rouse offered a few more suggestions, pointing out that even though the soil may be frozen, the ground an inch or so below it actually is more like 60 degrees and can help keep pipes and plants from freezing. “Even though the top inch of soil may freeze, the warmth from it will help protect pipes,” Rouse said. He continued, noting that once the pipe or standing spigot is wrapped, a bucket can be put over top of it. “Put some type of cover over it and weigh it down so the wind does not blow it over,” explained Rouse. “The ground heat will help insulate it even though the ground may feel cold.”

As for outdoor plants, Rouse suggested people bring in any potted plants and cover any citrus trees they may have. “More and more people are planting the citrus trees — satsumas, oranges, lemons — and it is important to cover them,” said Rouse. “Severe cold can kill citrus trees. Once again, if you can, it is about capturing that soil heat.”

As for fruit trees and plants such as peaches, apples, and blueberries, Rouse said that the cold will not hurt them as much, pointing out that they are dormant this time of year. “A freeze this time of year won’t hurt them as much — it is that late freeze when they are budding that damage can be caused,” said Rouse.

Pets and livestock also were a concern said Rouse, asking that people bring in any pets that do not have adequate shelter or warmth from the cold. “They are not use to this cold,” said Rouse. “Bring them in if you can.”

With livestock, Rouse said if they could be stabled or barned overnight, that would be best. “I worry a lot about the livestock,” said Rouse, noting that if a stall or barn was not possible, at least field the animals in a wooded lot. “The woods can insulate them,” said Rouse, pointing out that high energy feed, as well as free access to hay was important for their warmth.

As for the rye crops planted, Rouse suggested people keep their horses and cows off of them during this cold spell, noting that the hooves could damage the fragile and frozen grass. “It is advisable for farmers with rye grass to keep the livestock off of it if possible. If hooves are on it when it is frozen, it can be severely damaged,” he continued. “Just try and wait until this cold spell passes if possible.”

Grigsby also reminded residents that the water for pets and livestock can freeze in these cold temperatures. “Their water can freeze and they won’t have any water to drink,” said Grigsby. “Check it often.”

Additionally, he said, residents should also check on anyone they know who is elderly or who may have money issues, noting that the person may not have the money to pay for heat. “If you know anyone with money issues or who are elderly, check on them,” said Grigsby.

Equally important, he said, was the use of space heaters, pointing out that if they are placed within three feet of anything, a fire could result. “If anything flammable is closer than that, the heat from one of those space heaters is warm enough to set it on fire,” he said.

Grigsby did have some good news, though, pointing out that the cold snap was going to pass through by the end of the weekend. “Temperatures will be in the 50s during the day and that’s going to feel pretty good after this,” said Grigsby.