EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — While Wednesday will be pretty cold, bitter and dangerous cold is anticipated Wednesday night and Thursday.
This is part of what could be one of the longest stretches of below-freezing weather on record for Providence. Now is the time to prepare for the cold. Thursday is when some of the worst of the cold will arrive.
In response to the expected bitter cold snap, many locations across the state are opening their doors as warming centers to anyone who needs somewhere to go. Crossroads Rhode Island is also preparing its overflow shelter for the homeless as temperatures drop into the single digits.
Anyone going outside during these times should take precautions to avoid illness and injuries, according to Dr. Mark Greve of Rhode Island Hospital. Greve said it is a busy time for the hospital with flu season, but now the staff is expecting more cold weather injuries, such as frostbite and hypothermia.
According to Greve, there are several factors behind frostbite and tissue damage.
“One is who you are. So people with a bad peripheral vascular disease, older people with Diabetes, poor circulation, are at much higher risk. That means you can get tissue injuries in a shorter time,” Greve said. “Frostbite injury, overall, is related to temperature, as well as the period of exposure, as well as the wind chill. So it’s really important to pay attention to how hard the wind is blowing.”
According to Greve, they expect to see these injuries mostly from the homeless and people who are intoxicated.
Greve said there are multiple signs of concern for cold weather injuries:
- Extremities become cold and blisters begin to form
- Skin begins to turn white, or become darker and turn black
- Extremities become numb and tingly
When it comes to warming back up, Greve said there are important measures to take:
- Find a warm environment and get out of the cold
- Gently rewarm extremities and do not use direct heat
- Use warm water to soak your extremities
“Generally we go for lukewarm. The other is passive warming. Things that you would think a warm cup of cocoa and a blanket, and those sorts of things,” Greve said.
Greve said hypothermia symptoms are often seen by others and not the person suffering from it:
- Confusion or lack of coordination
- Slow and shallow breathing
- Drowsiness or fatigue
- Loss of consciousness
Doctors and health officials are not the only ones preparing for the frigid weather. With extreme winter weather comes a bigger risk for fires as people try to stay warm.
But the extreme cold is also dangerous for those fighting the fires, according to Battalion Chief Stephen Capracotta of the Providence Fire Department.
“If there’s a house fire, it’s very warm inside there. You come out, and it’s a totally different atmosphere,” Capracotta said.
Capracotta said all of Providence Fire’s trucks are winterized and prepared for the dangerously cold weather.
“It’s just a matter of putting the right tools on the truck for the weather buckets of sand, extra shovels, our ice rescue equipment is now on all the apparatus,” he said. “Gloves, hats, everything they’ll carry on the truck with them. Everything gets wet. So they’ll be able to change things over.”
- Read more: How to prevent frozen pipes in your home »
- Read more: Fireplace and Carbon Monoxide safety »
Capracotta said fire officials are also concerned about a deep freeze causing other problems such as Carbon Monoxide poisoning from heaters and thawing pipes cracking and bursting once warmer weather returns.
Some are putting a positive twist on the cold weather. People were lacing up their skates at the Alex and Ani City Center to spend some time on the ice.
“I haven’t ice skated all year and I was super excited to,” Tatum Soucy said.
With the chill setting in, one local business is selling hot beverages at the rink to help keep those who are braving the elements nice and warm.
“We’ve got espressos, cappuccinos, lattes, everything,” Christopher Sanderson, the owner of Cafeina, said. “Oh it’s been very busy, we’ve been serving everybody.”
While skating rinks are remaining open during the cold weather, the Department of Environmental Management in Rhode Island said frozen ponds are not safe to skate on at this time.