Dr. Jennifer Bencie’s responsibilities as health officer for the Florida Department of Health in Manatee County extends to keeping a constant eye on the weather because extreme cold, heat, wind and flooding can be deadly to humans and their pets.
Bencie released a severe cold weather warning Wednesday for Manatee County regarding a frigid air mass from Canada headed for Manatee and surrounding counties on Thursday and Friday.
The warning advised residents to stay indoors as much as possible and to wear multiple layers of loose-fitting clothing, as well as a hat, scarf and mittens when going outside Thursday and Friday.
“It has been eight years since we last saw temperatures this low for such a prolonged period,” Bencie said in her alert. “It’s critical that residents and visitors take necessary precautions to protect themselves from these unseasonably cold temperatures.”
Although both days are expected to be sunny, temperatures are expected to be in the low to mid-30s on both Thursday and Friday morning with wind chill driving the temperatures down to 25 degrees, Jennifer Hubbard, a meteorologist from the National Weather Service in Ruskin, said Wednesday.
Friday will be a bit colder than Thursday because the wind will die down that day, allowing for “radiational cooling,” Hubbard said.
“Temperatures like these can truly be dangerous,” said Tom Iovino, a Florida Department of Health in Manatee County spokesman.
Late afternoon temperatures on Thursday and Friday will rise, but just to the mid-50s, Hubbard said.
Saturday will still dawn cold with temperatures in the mid-30s but will show signs of a slow but steady warm up that continues through Sunday, Hubbard added.
The health department is urging that residents follow eight cold weather safety steps, listed with this story, to keep themselves and their pets safe Thursday and Friday.
Winter safety tips
- Stay indoors as much as possible to keep healthy, safe and warm. Make sure to check on friends and family members and neighbors who are especially at risk from cold weather hazards, including young children, older adults, and the chronically ill.
- For outside activities, dress in multiple layers of loose-fitting clothing. Don’t forget to wear a hat, scarf and mittens, or other winter gear.
- Heat your home safely. If you plan to use a wood stove, fireplace, or space heater, be extremely careful. Make sure each appliance is properly adjusted and you have followed the manufacturer’s instructions and local building codes for use.
- Prevent carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning by never using generators, charcoal grills or gas grills indoors and by installing a CO detector to alert you of the presence of the deadly, odorless, colorless gas.
- If temperatures are forecast to dip below freezing, leave your home’s water taps slightly open so they drip continuously.
- Eat well-balanced meals to stay warmer. Avoid drinking alcoholic beverages — they cause your body to lose heat more rapidly. Instead, drink warm beverages such as hot chocolate or hot tea to help maintain your body temperature. If you have any dietary restrictions, consult your doctor.
- Bring pets out of the cold weather and provide them warm shelter.
- Cold weather can displace wild animals. Stay clear of wild or feral animals including cats, bats or raccoons especially if they look sick or appear injured. They could have rabies and hurt animals can also injure you.
The Florida Department of Health in Manatee County