The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) has issued a situational awareness statement regarding the week of biting cold due to beset Massachusetts over the next week. MEMA warned that nighttime temperatures in the southeastern part of the state will fall to single digits, and that the wind chill may sink those temperatures to zero or below. The agency described such low wind-chill temperatures as “potentially life-threatening.”
The influx of frigid air will may not be quite as bad on-Island, and only plunge temperatures into the teens for much of the week, National Weather Service meteorologist Bill Simpson told The Times. As with the rest of the state, though, the wind chill could keep temperatures close to zero, he said.
Sometimes nicknamed “the Montreal Express,” the cold air mass actually hails from the Arctic, according to Mr. Simpson. Because of the weeklong deep chill, he said, the formation of marine ice in protected sounds and shallow water bodies, such as the Island’s saltwater ponds, is distinctly possible.
The intense freeze is expected to last until Jan. 3, but Mr. Simpson said if a storm hits this weekend, as is currently forecast, temperatures may become less bitter.
MEMA has warned that frostbite and hypothermia risks are elevated in such cold temperatures. and that frostbite can happen in 30 minutes or less on unprotected skin. The agency also warned carbon monoxide and fire dangers may increase during such cold, because people may utilize unsafe or improper alternative heating devices. Additionally, the agency cautioned that pipes may rupture in temperatures so low.
Dr. David Halsey, orthopaedic surgeon at Martha’s Vineyard Hospital and vice president of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, will give an educational talk on hypothermia at the Good Shepherd Church shelter in Oak Bluffs Thursday afternoon at 1 pm, shelter manager Les Holcomb told The Times.
Keep your pets warm
Don’t forget to protect the four-legged members of your family from the cold. According to the Humane Society website, pets need protection the same way we do.
First and foremost: Keep them sheltered. Keep them inside with you and your family. Dogs are happiest when taken out for frequent walks and exercise, but make these short. Under no circumstances, according to the Humane Society, should pets be left outside to roam, even if they do during other seasons.
Pets’ cold tolerances vary based on their coat, body-fat storage, activity level, and health, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) website. Long-haired or thick-coated dogs have better tolerance for the cold, but should still be protected. Short-haired and short-legged pets become colder faster because their bodies are in closer contact with the snow and ground. Older dogs have a harder time in the cold, and are more prone to slipping and falling. Pets with diabetes or heart diseases have a harder time regulating their body temperature. Make sure your dog has its annual exam, so that it is ready and as healthy as possible for winter conditions.
It’s also important to bundle up. Exposed skin on noses, ears, and paw pads are at risk for frostbite and hypothermia the same way our skin is. Short-haired dogs should wear a sweater, even during short walks. Some pet owners also use booties to protect their pets’ feet, according to AVMA.
Tom Shelby, The MVTimes Dogcharmer columnist, said the key thing to keeping dogs warm is movement. “I have a poodle who’s young, enthusiastic, and agile,” Shelby said. “She was running through the woods at 15°, and I wasn’t worried because she was moving.”
When coming back inside, wipe down all paws with a damp towel. Rock, salt, and other chemicals used to melt snow can irritate the paws, so clean them before your pet licks them.
Rock salts can also be a poison, another problem for pets in the winter, according to the Humane Society. If your dog ingests rock salt, call the vet immediately. Antifreeze is another deadly poison, but its sweet taste attracts pets. Keep it out of reach, and wipe down any spills.
Remember that there is winter wildlife, so check underneath your car to make sure small animals or cats aren’t roosting there. The warmth of an engine can attract animals seeking winter shelter.
The AVMA says to collar and chip your pets, because the snow hides recognizable scents, and animals are more likely to get lost in the winter.
Everyone knows summer heat is deadly to dogs, but people are less aware that winter’s cold can be deadly too. Keep pets out of parked cars.
Be prepared, and recognize if your pet is acting differently. When in doubt, stay inside.