CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginians have several options to deal with record cold temperatures as a number of agencies opened warming shelters for Monday night and Tuesday.
The Mountain State is one of several states impacted by a “polar vortex” which is producing the lowest temperatures in some WV communities since 1994.
“It’s a permanent feature in the winter time,” said Meteorologist Greg Guillot of the National Weather Service in Charleston. “But it has rotated further south than usual. It’s allowed for a much larger expanse of cold air than what we normally see.”
The air straight from the North Pole sent emergency officials into action Monday afternoon setting up shelters across the state. School districts also called off classes for Tuesday by Monday evening while some business owners told workers not to venture out Tuesday. Several municipalities also announced they would not provide regular services, like garbage collection, Tuesday because of the cold.
“These are temperatures our area has not seen in the last 17 to 18 years,” Guillot said. “The last time Charleston has seen temperatures this chilly was back in February of 1996.”
The state released the following tips on how to deal with the cold weather:
–Stay indoors during such extreme winter weather. When venturing outside, it is dress in layers and limit skin exposure.
–If required to travel, make sure your vehicle has a full tank and bring along blankets, extra warm clothing and such gear as a flashlight and ice scraper.
–Check on loved ones and neighbors who are older or disabled. Bring all pets indoors, and make sure animals have both a warm space and ice-free water.
–Stay tuned to local radio, TV or other media for weather updates, or a NOAA weather radio if available.
–Avoid frozen or broken pipes by ensuring plumbing is weatherproofed. Consider turning on a faucet to a trickle – but NEVER leave a faucet running in an empty house. If a pipe bursts, shut off the water supply. Use hot water or a hair dryer to thaw frozen pipes – NEVER an open flame.
–Only rely on space heaters designed for indoor use and that meet the latest safety requirements. Keep a 3-foot space around heaters, and store any fuel properly.
–Make sure you have an emergency kit and a plan for your family to stay in contact in case of a power outage.
–If you are left without heat, contact your local Office of Emergency Services or health department for the location of the nearest warming station or shelter.