Tips for Extremely Cold Weather - U of I Extension

News Release

Tips for Extremely Cold Weather

This article was originally published on January 29, 2019 and expired on February 20, 2019. It is provided here for archival purposes and may contain dated information.

As we all know, extremely cold temperatures and wind chills are forecast for the next several days.  Some schools, businesses and public buildings have announced closings.


Some of these tips have been shared before, but are worth repeating:


First and foremost, don’t travel unless you absolutely must.  This weather is also hard on vehicles which can experience some problems beyond just not starting.  Flat tires, broken belts, radiator issues, etc. are often more common in cold weather.


If you MUST travel, be sure your cell phone is fully charged and you have the proper phone charger with you.  Always file a “flight plan.”  Let someone know where you are going, what route you will take and what time you expect to arrive.  Check in when you do arrive.


Do not warm up your car in the garage even if the door is open.



There are also special considerations for keeping your home warm and comfortable:


Be sure that furnace filters are clean.  Replace if necessary.


Consider foregoing any practice of turning thermostats down (automatically or manually) during the overnight hours.  Furnaces and air conditioners are usually sized for the average temperatures.  They may have trouble keeping up with extremes and recovering in the morning.


If you have a high efficiency furnace, that is one that is vented through the wall instead of a chimney or vent pipe on the roof, make certain that the intake and exhaust pipes are not covered with snow or plugged with ice.  Some earlier installations had issues with ice build-up from steamy exhaust.


In rural areas make sure you have plenty of propane or other fuel and that the regulator is not covered in snow.


Make sure your CO detector has fresh batteries, is less than 5 years old and is operating properly.  If it sounds, take nothing for granted.  Call the fire department and leave the building immediately.


Limit the use of auxiliary heat in your home.  If using electric space heaters make sure they are plugged directly to the wall outlet and not to an undersized extension cord.  Feel the cord from time to time.  If it is warm to the touch, turn the heater off and unplug it.  Kerosene heaters should be monitored carefully.  Never refill a kerosene heater indoors.  Let it cool and take it outdoors.


Do not use cooking appliances as a source of heat.


Do not run generators indoors or in a garage.



Be mindful of those for whom extreme weather may be a special hardship.  Check on friends and neighbors frequently.  Call the local non-emergency number (if your community has one) for information on warming shelters and other assistance.

Take care of yourself!   Dress in layers.  Eat properly. Drink plenty of water…very cold air tends to be very dry air. Avoid exposing any skin to the wind and cold.  Ears, noses, and fingertips are especially vulnerable to frostbite in relatively short periods of time outdoors.  Mittens are warmer than gloves.  Always wear a hat or hood.


In short, be smart.  Exercise common sense.  And remember, this is Illinois.  Temperatures will rise to the 40s or 50s by the weekend.

Source: Rick Atterberry, Media Communications Specialist,

Pull date: February 20, 2019