The official start of winter last week brought with it Christmas snow, dangerous low temperatures and wind chills.

Mercy Hospital Washington will be opening its doors to provide space for people to get out of the cold and warm up during this stretch of extremely cold weather. 

There will be space available in the hospital chapel and the hospital cafeteria for people to sit down, warm up, and hot tea will be provided.

The Franklin County Sheriff’s Department is reminding residents to check on their neighbors and not to forget about pets as the temperatures drop to dangerous levels.

Forecast

Although the first white Christmas since 2010 was pleasing to many, thermometers have been in the single digits all week and there is no relief in sight. 

The National Weather Service (NWS) is forecasting a 30 percent chance of snow for Saturday and Sunday, but according to its temperature predictions it will be best enjoyed indoors.

The high temperature for Saturday is expected to be 14 degrees with an overnight low of 3. Sunday’s high is predicted to be 13 degrees.

In addition to the actual single digit air temperatures, wind chills will be in the negatives each overnight period.

The frigid trend is expected to continue through the weekend with no real relief in sight.

The highest temperature predicted in the next few days is 20 degrees, and that isn’t until Tuesday, Jan. 2. 

Safety

With the extreme dangerous temperatures expected the next few days, the Franklin County Health Department is warning residents to be wary of frostbite and hypothermia if they are outside for extended periods.

According to the NWS, exposure to negative wind chills in the double digits can result in frostbite after just 30 minutes.

Frostbite is a serious condition that’s caused by exposure to extremely cold temperatures.

Frostbite can exhibit as a white or grayish-yellow skin area, or skin that feels unusually firm or waxy or can include numbness.

If anyone detects symptoms of frostbite, they should seek medical care.

Hypothermia is an even more serious condition that if left unchecked can lead to death.

Hypothermia, or abnormally low body temperature, is a dangerous condition that can occur when a person is exposed to extremely cold temperatures.  

When exposed to cold temperatures, the body begins to lose heat faster than it’s produced. 

Lengthy exposures will eventually use up the body’s stored energy, which leads to lower body temperature. 

Warning signs of hypothermia in adults include shivering, exhaustion, confusion, fumbling hands, memory loss, slurred speech and  drowsiness.

In children, signs can include bright red, cold skin and very low energy.

If anyone notices any of these signs, take the person’s temperature. If it is below 95 degrees, the situation is an emergency—get medical attention immediately.