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The Cold, Hard Facts of PA Winter

January 17, 2020 10:00 AM

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Fresh off the heels of the holiday season, we now move into the heart of winter.  Often, we think of snow piling up or icy walkways as the typical winter hazards. But, cold weather can be just as dangerous.

While most of us as Pennsylvanians understand we must deal with cold air over winter, periods of extreme cold can lead to problems across the board. From problems with keeping the house warm to power outages and plumbing issues, extreme cold can wreak havoc on an unprepared family. Extreme cold hazards can be mitigated though. Check out the tips below for more details.

The Coldest Hour

Typically, the coldest part of the day is during the pre-dawn hours into around sunrise at the start of a calm, newly snow-covered day. If wind is involved, the cold air can be dangerous at any time of the day. Wind-driven cold can lead to hypothermia and frostbite in a matter of minutes during extreme cold.

Protecting the 4 P's: People, Pets, Plants, and Pipes


Our elders, children, and those with illness may not be able to regulate body temperature well and can quickly be susceptible to the cold. Homeless, outdoor workers, and recreationists can to fall victim to cold temperatures. Be sure to dress with multiple layers and cover all exposed body parts. Also remember to:

  • Limit time outdoors
  • Check on neighbors regularly
  • Stay hydrated and well rested


Animals have a limited tolerance to extreme cold over long periods of time. Limit time outdoors and keep food and water available. Protect pets with special clothing if needed.


While most plants at this stage of the year are hardy enough for outdoors, some may not be able to sustain extreme cold.  Covering plants or moving to sheds or indoors can help plant health during long cold stretches.


Make sure water pipes are well insulated. On extremely cold days, run a slow trickle of water to keep the pipes from freezing. If pipes freeze, don’t use an open flame or heat gun to thaw frozen pipes, otherwise you may start a fire. Also, make sure vent pipes aren’t blocked or covered with snow.

More Tips

DO NOT run generators or gas heaters indoors. Do not use the oven to heat your home. Problems with using these methods include carbon monoxide poisoning or fires.

When traveling, maintain at least a half tank of gas to keep you warm if you get stranded. If you have not yet, get your car tuned up and ready for a cold snap.

Oh! And don’t forget the bread, milk, and eggs. It is a Pennsylvania winter after all.

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