Michigan officials offer tips to get through the Arctic blast that’s gripping the state with frigid temps

MARQUETTE – With a record low temperature tied Monday and another day of subzero temperatures and dangerous wind chill readings forecast for today, state officials have been offering some cold weather tips for the public.

The National Weather Service recorded a low of -17 degrees Monday morning at its office in Negaunee Township, tying the lowest reading set in 1968.

Over the past couple of days, state and local authorities have been monitoring and preparing for dangerous winter weather conditions, prepared to help communities, a news release from Gov. Rick Snyder’s office said.

Snyder urged Michigan residents to exercise great caution to avoid injury and to monitor media reports for weather updates.

“The heavy snowfall and expected 20-year low subzero temperatures and high winds are creating – or have the potential to create – hazardous conditions statewide,” Snyder said.

“We want everyone to be safe. Let’s all pull together by taking care of ourselves and each other, which includes checking in on friends and neighbors who may need our help. It’s times like this when Michiganders are at their best.”

Snyder’s office detailed some basic cold weather tips including:

– Minimizing travel and staying off the roads if possible. If travel is necessary, keep a full tank of gas and an emergency preparedness kit in the vehicle.

– Staying indoors if possible. If you must go outside, weather protective gear such as a hat and gloves should be worn.

– Dressing in layers and keeping dry. Removing clothing if it gets damp or wet. Wet clothing makes you more prone to hypothermia. Always protect your lungs by covering your mouth with a scarf.

– Watching for signs of frostbite, which include loss of feeling or pale appearance of fingers, toes or face.

– Watching pets closely and keeping them indoors when possible. If outside, have a warm shelter area with unfrozen water.

Michigan State Police troopers offered additional tips:

– Watch for signs of hypothermia, which include uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, drowsiness and exhaustion.

– Understand the hazards of wind chill. As wind speed increases, heat is carried away from a person’s body more rapidly and could lead to severe hypothermia.

– Weather-proof doors and windows to trap heat inside your home.

– Check heating units. Poorly operating or damaged heating units can release carbon monoxide gas. Test carbon monoxide detectors for proper operation and battery life.

– If you don’t have an emergency preparedness kit, make one. Put warm clothing – such as gloves, blankets and hats – in your kit in case you become stranded.

Michigan Department of Transportation Director Kirk T. Steudle offered some advice for drivers.

“As with any winter storm, but particularly during severe weather, motorists should leave snowplows extra room so operators can do their jobs efficiently and safely,” Steudle said. “More than ever, it’s vital for drivers to keep distractions to a minimum, wear their seat belts, and give plows room to groom.”

Additional driver tips from MDOT included:

– Extreme cold limits the tools road agencies can use, rendering salt ineffective at temperatures below 20 degrees. To continue to apply salt at very low temperatures will accelerate the refreezing process and worsen road conditions.

– Motorists should never attempt to pass a moving snowplow on the right. With new wing plows and tow plows, the blade can clear the shoulder and the lane of travel simultaneously. Motorists attempting an illegal pass through a snow cloud on the right and/or shoulder of the road most likely won’t see the plow blade and run the risk of a serious crash.

– Distracted driving is dangerous driving. Motorists should not text or talk on cell phones while they are behind the wheel, especially in winter conditions. Texting while driving is illegal in Michigan.

According to Snyder’s office, most disasters or emergencies are handled by local governments without state assistance. Local responders, volunteers and the private sector are the first to be involved.

If the recovery efforts are beyond the ability of the community, it may request assistance through the Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division of the Michigan State Police.

For more information about being prepared before, during and after an emergency or disaster, go to the Michigan State Police emergency preparedness website at www.michigan.gov/beprepared or follow on Twitter at @MichEMHS or www.twitter.com/MichEMHS.

For road conditions, call or visit the Michigan State Police winter travel advisory hotline at 800-381-8477 or www.michigan.gov/roadconditions, or visit or follow MDOT’s road updates at www.michigan.gov/drive or @MichiganDOT.

Up-to-date road closings, traffic incidents, traffic speeds, and traffic camera views can be found at www.michigan.gov/drive.

John Pepin can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206.