Cold weather preparation

Published 7:00 am Tuesday, November 12, 2019

With temperature lows forecast in the mid 20s Tuesday night heading into Wednesday morning, residents should prepare their animals and their homes for what could be a hard freeze.

That means protecting exposed pipes, bringing pets inside when possible and protecting sensitive vegetation.

It is better to turn central heat on in a home before it is needed to make sure everything is in working condition, said Picayune Fire Chief Keith Brown. When using a space heater, all items should be kept three to four feet away from them to prevent house fires.

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Residents should also check that they have the correct gas detectors in their home and make sure smoke detectors are working, Brown said. Some heaters are designed to be operated outdoors, such as propane powered devices, and as such emit poisonous gas that can build up if the area is not properly ventilated. It is important to ensure any heaters used inside are designed for indoor use, Brown said.

Electricity costs typically go up in the winter, said Coast Electric Director of Communications April Lollar. Both Coast Electric and Mississippi Power recommend setting a central heating system to 68 degrees in the winter, because every degree more than that setting will cost about 3 percent more. Lollar said she prefers to set her temperature to 70 degrees, but understands her electric bill will be a little more expensive.

Even when customers are as efficient as possible with their heating usage, their electric bill will probably be higher than normal when the difference between the desired inside temperature and the temperature outdoors is greater because heaters have to work harder, Lollar said.

A cheap and easy way to reduce electricity costs in winter is to seal any air leaks near windows and doors where cold air can get inside and warm air can escape. Leaks in a home cause a heating system to work harder, Lollar said.

Opening blinds to let sunlight in during the day can also reduce heating costs, said Mississippi Power spokesperson Chris Vignes.

Dressing warm while in the home during cold weather, such as wearing socks, sweat pants and sweaters, can reduce the temptation to bump up the thermostat, Lollar said.

Coast Electric recommends having an HVAC system checked at least once a year, especially before extreme cold or heat. If customers have not had their system checked yet this year, the electric company recommends doing that before temperatures drop.

Changing air filters in an HVAC system regularly—especially in such a humid climate—also helps the system remain efficient, Lollar said.

Coast Electric has an engineering team and operations team who constantly monitor how much electricity people are using at once to ensure the system is handling the load properly, Lollar said, and dispatchers are always on call to address any outage, such as due to a damaged power line caused by falling trees or excessive ice. The Mississippi Power facilities are also prepared for any cold weather impact, said Vignes.

“Mississippi Power has a robust system designed for the severe weather expected this week,” said Vignes. “Our electric infrastructure is highly maintained and in addition we have crews at the ready.”

To keep pets comfortable in cold weather, owners should ensure their animal has warm shelter, said Pearl River County SPCA spokesperson Maria Diamond.

“The best thing to do is to bring them inside,” said Diamond.

However, owners can also provide an insulated doghouse. Straw or warm blankets work well as insulation, Diamond said. A doghouse that is not directly on cold ground will also keep pets warmer, and two dogs in the same doghouse will be able to keep each other warm, Diamond said. Dogs can be kept in spaces like garages or carports to keep them out of direct wind.

The shelter uses windscreens around their kennels to prevent cold wind from hitting the animals. The shelter also uses dog igloos with blankets for insulation, she said.

For shorthaired dogs without long fur to keep them warm and small dogs, dog coats and booties are available.