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Kansas City braces itself for life-threatening cold temperatures

Updated: 2014-01-05T05:37:37Z

By MARK DAVIS

The Kansas City Star

Kansas City’s forecast is enough to make the bones ache, the ignition hesitate and the mind fret about frozen pipes.

Brace for brrr.

Sunday night’s temperature is expected to fall to 9 below zero, and wind chills are forecast to remain below zero into Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service. By Monday morning, the breeze could make Kansas City feel like 35 degrees below zero.

“These will be life-threatening cold conditions,” the weather service warned in its forecast.

At minus 15, exposed skin can become frostbitten in minutes. Hypothermia, when a person’s total body temperature gets too low and can lead to unconsciousness or cardiac arrest, can set in quickly.

Monday’s high temperature, forecast at about 3 degrees, could give way to 3 below zero Monday night. With more wind.

Of course, Kansas City isn’t suffering from the cold alone.

Chicago schools will be open Monday, but district authorities have urged parents to “use their own discretion” in deciding whether to send children to school.

It’s too cold, it seems, even for ice skating. An outdoor rink in downtown Des Moines has closed until Tuesday because of the temperature, which was expected to plunge to 15 degrees below zero with highs near zero.

The extreme cold poses risks for travelers if their vehicles aren’t up to the challenge.

Most car batteries less than three years old should be able to handle the cold, said Jason Jones, who works for Best Batteries in North Kansas City.

Older batteries and ones that are on the verge of going dead often can’t be jump-started once they have been exposed for an extended time to temperatures below zero.

“Once they get to a certain point,” Jones said, “they’re done.”

Other dangers lurk indoors.

On Thursday, a Belton man died when his mobile home caught fire. The home was heated with space heaters, neighbors said.

The U.S. Fire Administration says more than 50,000 residential fires annually are caused by heating, resulting in about 150 deaths. January is the peak month for heating-related fires.

In Kansas City, a single mother and her five children were left homeless after bedding caught fire from a space heater.

“She said the space heater was necessary because she couldn’t afford the gas bill,” said Belva Ewing of the American Red Cross office in Kansas City.

Improper use of heating devices is also a common cause of carbon monoxide deaths.

Authorities in Pike County, Mo., said a couple died last month from carbon monoxide poisoning while using a portable propane heater to warm the camper where they were living.

The weather service said Kansas City’s temperature will struggle to climb above zero on Monday. Should it fail, the service said, it will mark the first time in more 24 years that the day’s high stayed below zero.

Consider some tips for deep freeze ahead:

• Dress in layers of loose clothing when indoors and out.

•  Outdoors, wear a hat and face protection. Favor mittens over gloves.

•  Check on neighbors and family members who live alone or who may not be able to get out on their own.

• Allow pets indoors or ensure they are well protected from the weather and have access to fresh water and food.

• Use a screen in front of fireplaces and have the chimney inspected regularly.

•  Keep space heaters at least three feet away from all items and only use space heaters that automatically shut off if they tip over.

• Propane and kerosene heaters should not be used indoors. The same goes for generators.

• Never use a gas stove for warmth. It poses a danger of carbon monoxide poisoning.

• Test flashlights and secure fresh batteries in case of a power outage. Avoid using candles, or at least never leave them unattended.

• Prevent frozen water pipes by leaving cabinet doors open or allowing a faucet to drip.

•  Carry blankets and additional warm clothing in vehicles as well as food and water for extended rips.

• Make others aware of your travel plans and expected arrival time at the destination.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

To reach Mark Davis, call 816-234-4372 or send email to mdavis@kcstar.com.

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