Are you prepared for a 5-degree wind chill? Here's how to handle it.

Staff writer

The first frightful cold of the season will strike on Sunday — the wind chill could hit 5 degrees.

Pipes could freeze. Black ice could appear on roadways.

There are a few things people should do to stay safe. Most important are space heaters, water pipes, pets and driving.

Forecasters at the National Weather Service are calling for rain from Saturday night through early Sunday morning. That afternoon and evening, a serious blast of cold arctic air will push through the region, bringing strong, gusty winds and temperatures in the single digits early Monday morning. 

Any standing water will be frozen, so there could be some black ice on the roadways.

The folks at AAA offer a few tips that can keep you safe when roads freeze. First, stay off the road unless you absolutely have to drive.

If you do, slow down, keep a safe distance and avoid skids by braking ever so slowly.

At home, with temperatures way below freezing, heat pumps will struggle to keep the house warm — prompting many to use a space heater.

If it's electrical, Virginia Beach Fire Department spokesman Art Kohn says to plug the device directly into a wall socket.

"Never use an extension cord," he said. "They pull so much current that the cord will get hot and can start a fire. And don't ever cover up the cord, because that will help it get hot."

When it comes to fuel-powered space heaters, stick to using the manufacturer's recommended fuel, most likely kerosene.

"You'd be surprised how many people will try to use something else," Kohn said.

In all cases, Kohn said to keep space heaters at least three feet away from anything combustible and to turn both kinds off before going to sleep at night.

Fireplaces are a wonderful way to keep the house warm, but only if the chimney has recently been inspected and cleaned. When disposing of ashes, don't put them in anything combustible for at least 72 hours, Kohn said.

Busted water pipes are also a huge problem during extended times of below-freezing temperatures.

The American Red Cross offers several tips for prevention:

• Remove any lawn hoses from outdoor faucets and cover the outlet with an insulated cap.

• Close or seal off all crawl space vents to keep the cold air away from water lines.

• Open cabinet doors to let the warm air circulate around the water pipes in bathrooms and kitchens.

• Trickle the water out of the spigot in the location farthest away from where the main line comes into the home. It won't hurt to do the same in other rooms.

• If you turn your water on and just a trickle comes out, suspect that you have frozen pipes and call a licensed plumber.

• If you kept your swimming pool open for the winter, like many in this area do, run the filter system whenever the temperature is going to be below freezing.

Don't forget your pets — their fur coats aren't enough in temperatures like we're going to see on Monday. Bring them inside if at all possible.

If not, make sure they have plenty of cover from the wind and lots of warm bedding. Check water bowls regularly and replace them when the water freezes. A light in a dog house will help keep the temperature up.

Stay warm and safe out there.

Lee Tolliver, 757-222-5844, lee.tolliver@pilotonline.com

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