Preparing to weather the cold
Fredericksburg area residents face various challenges brought on by the arctic temperatures, and precautions are needed to protect homes and vehicles from the frigid air.
The morning forecast has a wind chill index of 10 below and high for the day of just 19 degrees, according to the National Weather Service. The low overnight low Tuesday will be 11.
That’s enough for five school systems—in Fredericksburg and the counties of Caroline, Culpeper, Spotsylvania and Stafford—to close. Central Rappahannock Regional Library branches will open at 11 a.m.
According to its Facebook page, Colonial Beach middle and high schools have a two-hour delay, though the school division website said they will have a regular day.
Those without a place to stay tonight and at risk of freezing can be picked up by the Micah Ministries bus about 6:30 p.m. at Tower of Deliverance at 1808 Princess Anne Street and taken to a shelter.
The challenges that come with colder weather include frozen pipes, overworked heating equipment, and vehicles that will not start.
Michael Taggert, owner of Plumb Magic LLC, has worked 30 years in the plumbing industry and has been through some of Virginia’s biggest ice storms.
“When a pipe bursts and causes water damage, it is best to shut down the main water line,” Taggert said. “Usually, insurance companies cover the damage but not the repair.”
To keep pipes from bursting Taggert recommends opening the tap a little bit, about the size of a pencil, and to let the water drip from pipes in unheated areas.
“Moving water is harder to freeze,” Taggert said.
If the pipes have already frozen, Taggert said to gently heat them by using a lamp, hair dryer or portable space heater, and to continue to melt the ice until the water pressure is restored. However, he warned against using an open flame.
Turning the heat up is another option.
Allstate Insurance recommends keeping a house at least 65 degrees because the temperature inside walls, where pipes are, is colder. If the house has a temperature below 65 degrees, the pipes inside the walls will freeze.
For Virginia and other parts of the country, the temperatures brought on by the arctic winds are the coldest in nearly two decades.
In preparation for the freezing temperatures, Jerry Butterfield, owner of All Air Heating & Cooling Services LLC, brought in his whole staff for 24/7 shifts.
“It’s all hands on deck,” Butterfield said. “Because when it gets down into the teens, your heating equipment has to work at 100 percent,” Butterfield said.
To aid the equipment, Butterfield recommends making sure all areas where wind or cold can penetrate, such as crawl spaces and garages, are properly sealed.
Bitter cold weather also plagues cars.
Greg Eubank, mechanic and owner of Falls Run Car Care Center in Fredericksburg, emphasized the need to take care of your car’s battery and antifreeze.
“If you don’t have enough antifreeze in the car, when you go to turn it on, you will mess up your engine,” Eubank said. “If your battery is three to four years old, you should get it checked out.”
According to AAA, cold weather takes a toll on car batteries because it loses 60 percent of its strength at 0 zero degrees and 35 percent at 32 degrees.
Personal comfort and safety should also be kept in mind when the temperatures drop.
The Red Cross said stoves or ovens should not be used for heat. Space heaters should be used on a level, hard surface and flammable materials kept away from them.
If the power goes out and a generator is needed, do not have the generator running inside the home. Run it from outside and connect the equipment directly to the power outlets on the generator.
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Remove all garden hoses from outside connections and make sure they are turned off.
For areas in the home that are usually a little colder, like kitchens and bathrooms, open the cabinet doors to allow the heat to reach the pipes underneath.
For areas that are not heated and are not lived in, turn the water off completely and tightly close all faucets. This will stop the water from expanding when it freezes, which can cause damage.
If the key lock is frozen, heat it with a match or a lighter. However, do not pour hot water on a lock or windshield because it could make the problem worse and cause the windshield to shatter.
Cold weather can cause tires to lose pressure, so it is good to check the pressure monthly. Driving on an under-inflated tire increases the risk of a blowout.
Keep the gas tank half full to avoid a gas line freeze up.
Cold tips for pets
Know your pet’s limits: Be aware of your pet’s tolerance for cold weather, and adjust accordingly.
Check the paws: Check your dog’s paws frequently for signs of cold-weather injury or damage, such as cracked paw pads or bleeding.
If your pet is whining, shivering, seems anxious, slows down or stops moving, seems weak, get them back inside quickly because they are showing signs of hypothermia.
Include your pet in your disaster plans. Have enough food, water and medicine on hand to get through at least 5 days.