Illinois weather this weekend will be cold. Stay safe, and stay warm.
Weathermen have all sorts of expressions to explain fairly simple things. If you live in northern Illinois, you know all about weathermen. You also know all about fairly simple things – like the kind of cold, exacerbated by wind chill, that can make you feel as though someone is trying to cut right through you. And that they just might succeed.
The weatherman’s expression in this case is “polar vortex.” We don’t know anyone who feels better because it’s been explained to them that the vicious, inhuman cold that has descended on this part of the country is caused by a polar vortex. Who cares what caused it? It’s coming, and this weekend it’s going to be here. We don’t even want to think about what the rest of winter may be going to turn into; it’s enough to know that this weekend is going to be bad. It’s going to be very bad.
So let’s think about what to do about it. Here are five things that can help us all get through how this winter is shaping up to be without freezing solid.
1 Start with your feet. And your hands
When polar explorers and climbers in the Himalayas get frostbite, it isn’t their tonsils that drop off – it’s their fingers and their toes. If you’re venturing out this weekend, make sure you’re wearing the right kind of gloves, insulated against the cold, and that your feet are similarly protected. An extra pair of socks is a good idea, worn inside insulated shoes or, better, boots. The extra socks mean you need more space in the footwear, which may be a good reminder that air between layers insulates, so roomier boots are the way to go in any case.
2 Now wrap up the rest of you
Okay, you’ve seen to your hands and your feet – now make sure everything else is properly wrapped up. And we are back to layers, because putting on a T-shirt and then a shirt and then a sweater and then a jacket is much better against the cold than just pulling on the warmest ski jacket you can find. The same holds true for lower down, and don’t be precious about long underwear. It’s saved a lot of lives in its time. Don’t forget your head, either – the old idea that 80% of body heat goes out through the top of your head has been disproved, but you still need to keep it warm.
3 “Comfort food” is warm food
The kind of meal people mean when they talk about comfort food – stews, chilli, fish pie, rice pudding, chicken soup (ideally with barley) – that’s the kind of stuff you want inside you in weather like this. And an oatmeal breakfast will do you a lot more good than a bagel. Yes, we know all about those New Year resolutions and the determination to lose weight but, listen: this is simply the wrong time of year to make resolutions about eating less. If you lived in Australia, where New Year’s comes in August, well, fine. But you don’t. You live in a place that might as well be Alaska at this time of year.
4 Your pets need care, too
Just because your dog or cat is covered in thick fur, doesn’t mean it doesn’t feel the cold. It does. Make sure the cat can get inside, and don’t take the dog out for too long at any one time. 10 minutes is probably quite long enough to walk a dog this coming weekend. And when you get back in, just take a look at their paws and make sure there’s no ice trapped there.
5 Treat driving with respect
We’re not just talking here about having the right tires. If you’re going further than just round the corner, make sure you have everything in the car that you might need. Salt. A shovel. Emergency lighting. Blankets, and maybe a sleeping bag, just in case you find you’re spending longer in the car than you expected to.
And one more thing. When did you last have your furnace repaired, maintained, or tuned up? We’re not exaggerating what this weekend is going to be like. Have you listened to the forecasts? Do you understand what’s coming? If you have the slightest doubt about the fitness of your furnace to keep going, call us now. That kind of disaster is best avoided.