Mississippians are bracing for severe winter weather, posing a significant risk to life and property, and there are a number of things that can be done to prepare.
In Jackson, National Weather Service forecasts indicate temperatures could drop as low as 12 degrees overnight Thursday into Friday morning and are not likely to rise above freezing until Sunday morning. In Hattiesburg, NWS forecasts predict a low of 18 degrees Thursday night, with temperatures not going above freezing until Saturday.
There are a number of precautions people should take whenever temperatures are consistently below freezing in order to protect life and property.
Long-term exposure to elements during a hard freeze can be dangerous for you, your loved ones, and your pets.
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Residents are urged to stay inside with heat running during extreme cold and seek shelter if they do not have housing.
Jackson and Hattiesburg are both opening free shelters under their emergency freeze plans. In Hattiesburg, Field House at 5712 U.S. 49 will be open throughout the duration of the severe weather event. In Jackson, Shephard’s Gymnasium at 1355 Hattiesburg St. in Jackson will serve as a temporary emergency shelter from Thursday through Tuesday. Other regular overnight shelters will also be open.
If residents must go outside, they should wear multiple layers, a warm hat, and gloves. They should also carry a cell phone in case of emergency.
Drivers should be especially weary of ice on the roads as rain is expected Thursday before temperatures drop below freezing.
Anyone spending extended time in cold temperatures should monitor themselves for signs of hypothermia and frostbite.
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Signs of hypothermia include shivering or fumbling hands, exhaustion or drowsiness, confusion or memory loss, slurred speech, bright red, cold skin, or very low energy in infants. Anyone with a temperature below 95 degrees should seek medical attention immediately.
Symptoms of frostbite can include redness or pain in any skin area, white or grayish-yellow skin area, skin that feels unusually firm or waxy, and numbness.
Residents are also encouraged to check on neighbors, children, the elderly, and chronically ill to ensure they have a plan and monitor their condition throughout the event.
All pets should be brought inside a location with heat.
Mississippians are also encouraged to take a number of steps to protect their property.
In order to prevent frozen pipes, residents should open the cabinets under the sinks in their kitchens and bathrooms to allow heated air to circulate around the pipes and let indoor faucets drip without running a heavy stream of water. Thermostats should be set at 55 degrees at a minimum.
Residents may want to stock up on bottled water in the event that pipes freeze. In a news conference earlier this week, Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said if there is a widespread loss of running water the city will mobilize to distribute free bottled water from its stockpiles to the affected areas.
All plants that are sensitive to cold should be brought indoors if possible, and if not, they should be insulated as best possible by covering them with blankets or sheets. Plastic should be avoided as it traps moisture, which could freeze, and does not insulate well.