Arctic blast will cause temperatures to plunge into teens Wednesday night

Sarah J. Ketchum
Contact Reporterspawlowski@dailypress.com

Bundle up and prepare for a stretch of below-freezing temperatures this week.

A strong cold front is going to arrive Tuesday night pushing an arctic air mass over the area Wednesday through Friday, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Wakefield said.

The system will also bring the potential for strong wind gusts and blustery conditions, although snow in Hampton Roads is not likely.

"(It'll be) just dry and cold for most of this week," meteorologist Mike Rusnak said.

Precipitation should stay toward northern Virginia, he said.

Expect a high temperature in the mid-40s Tuesday dropping to just below freezing Tuesday night. Temperatures will climb into the high 30s Wednesday and then drop sharply to the teens overnight Wednesday.

Winds out of the west will pick up ahead of the falling temperatures. Wind gusts Wednesday could reach 34 mph, according to the weather service.

It'll feel the coldest Thursday morning. Prepare to wake up to wind chill factors in the single digits, Rusnak said. The forecast calls for a high temperature Thursday of just 27 degrees.

Thursday is just one day later than one year after the first arctic blast of 2014. The Jan. 7 system brought below zero wind chill factors and temperatures in the teens. Norfolk, the closest city for which the weather service has data, beat a record for the lowest high temperature of 26 degrees.

The temperatures caused concern for frozen pipes, safety issues with portable heaters and health risks.

While this week's temperatures won't be quite as cold, residents may want to prepare their homes, as well as their wardrobes.

"When it's in the teens, people should take precautionary measures," Rusnak said.

The Virginia Department of Health advises that residents dress appropriately in extreme weather to prevent hypothermia and frostbite. Gloves, hats, scarves and snow boots are recommended, as well as dressing in layers of loose-fitting clothing.

Do not ignore shivering, the department warns. It's an important sign that the body is losing heat. Persistent shivering is a signal to return indoors.

Winter storms are the third-largest cause of catastrophe losses, behind hurricanes and tornadoes, according to Allstate spokeswoman Kyla O'Brien, referencing data from the Insurance Information Institute.

To avoid damage, Allstate recommends opening hot and cold faucets enough to let them drip slowly. Keeping water moving within the pipes will prevent freezing.

While keeping an eye on the pipes, officials also recommend caution when using heating devices — half of the nation's home heating fires are reported in December, January and February, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

The association advises keeping items that can burn at least 3 feet away from heating equipment such as furnaces, fireplaces and portable heaters, turning off heaters when leaving the room or going to bed and having heating equipment and chimneys inspected once a year.

Staff writer Andrea Castillo and Daily Press archives contributed to this report. Pawlowski can be reached by phone at 757-247-7478.

Tips

•Keep the house heated to a minimum of 65 degrees. The temperature inside the walls where the pipes are located is substantially colder than the walls themselves. A temperature lower than 65 degrees will not keep the inside walls from freezing.

Open hot and cold faucets enough to let them drip slowly. Keeping water moving within the pipes will prevent freezing.

Identify the location for the main water shutoff in your home. Find out how it works in case you have to use it.

If you use fireplaces, wood stoves and electric heaters, watch them closely and make sure they are working properly.

If you haven't already, make sure all hoses are disconnected from outside spigots.

If your garage is attached to your house, keep the garage doors closed. The door leading to the house is probably not as well-insulated as an exterior door.

Watch for ice dams near gutter downspouts. Keep gutters free of leaves and debris so melting snow and ice can flow freely. Ice dams can cause water to build up and seep into your house.

Keep sidewalks and entrances to your home free from snow and ice.

If you discover that pipes are frozen, don't wait for them to burst. Take measures to safely thaw them immediately, or call a plumber for assistance.

If your pipes burst, first turn off the water and then mop up spills. You don't want the water to do more damage than it already has.

If it is safe to do so, make temporary repairs and take other steps to protect your property from further damage. Remove any carpet or furniture that can be further damaged from water seepage. Save your receipts from any temporary repairs.

Information from Allstate

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