Extreme weather warning issued as temperatures plummet

An extreme cold weather warning was issued for Brantford on Jan. 13, as temperatures dropped to approximately -30 C when accounting for the wind chill. According to Environment Canada, the frigid temperatures were the result of a very cold air mass that had settled in the area. Additionally, the presence of light to moderate northerly winds created potentially dangerous conditions for most of Southern Ontario, including Brantford.

Students and citizens are reminded to exercise caution in cases of extremely cold weather, to ensure their safety. Wearing many layers of clothing is always recommended, including an outer layer that is resistant to the wind. It is also important to cover up any exposed skin when outside, since frostbite and hypothermia can occur within minutes.

Frostbite and hypothermia are both medical conditions that can be quite dangerous, which people become susceptible to in cold weather or when submerged in cold water.

Students and faculty members are reminded to be cautious when walking on sidewalks that have become frozen or snow covered. According to Laurier Brantford’s website, falls are the leading cause of injury in the educational sector and the third leading cause of injury in all Ontario workplaces. A memo released on Jan. 8 by Laurier’s Communications, Public Affairs & Marketing department reminds students to wear appropriate footwear and avoid texting while walking.

The issue of cold weather safety has received increased attention recently, due to the deaths of three Toronto men that is believed to be from hypothermia. All three men were presumed to be homeless and the tragic events have caused citizens and politicians to lobby for increased funding of shelters or temporary housing.

Dr. Ben Wedro, a University of Alberta graduate, describes frostbite in his medical article, “Frostbite and Hypothermia Symptoms and Stages”. Wedro writes, “While the body tries to maintain a constant temperature where heat production is balanced by heat loss, it is quite willing to sacrifice expendable parts like fingers and toes to protect vital organs like the heart and brain.”

Wedro also defines hypothermia as having a body temperature of less than 95°F (35°C), causing the electrical conducting systems of the brain and heart to shut down as the body cools. Hypothermia can have many adverse symptoms such as confusion, lethargy, slurred speech, loss of consciousness, coma and can ultimately lead to death.

Another major concern during the winter season is unsafe roadways due to snowfall or ice. The provincial government’s report on winter driving highlights three principles for motorists to keep in mind: “stay alert, slow down and stay in control”.

The Provincial report goes on to state, “Drive according to highway and weather conditions. Maintain a safe following distance between you and the vehicle in front of you to avoid situations where you may have to brake suddenly.”

The report urges motorists to ensure their vehicle is mechanically ready for winter through actions such as making sure it has sufficient windshield wiper fluid and applying snow tires if possible.

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