On Monday, Old Man Winter unleashed a polar vortex – an extreme cold front affecting most of the country, including Eastern Jackson County. Fortunately, the National Weather Service says we should expect a slight break from the frigid temperatures by the end of this week.
However, winter is well underway and another severe bout of cold weather can be looming on the horizon. The unseasonably harsh conditions can have a negative effect on either your business or home's plumbing, tamper with your vehicle's ability to start and even impose a threat to your overall safety.
The Examiner spoke with a number of professionals on what preventive steps a person should consider for their home, car and well-being.
"The biggest one I heard in the past that works even in the worst of situations – and may cost a few dollars – is to keep the water running," says Jeff Mock of Blue Springs Public Works who received calls from many homeowners and businesses Monday about busted pipes or water lines. He says water pipes in your home or office building are susceptible to burst from the frozen temperatures, and the best way to prevent a visit from the plumber is to keep water in your home or business moving.
"Just have the faucet inside your home run a stream the size of pencil lead," said Mock. "Or periodically just run water through the lines. Moving water is very difficult to freeze."
Although you might see a higher water bill next month, Mock said compared to the cost of repairing a pipe, the continuously running water option is cheaper.
He also suggested alternative remedies such as keeping your cabinet doors under the sink open and to check and see if there are any open seals on your garage doors. The water lines on raised ranch-style homes, he said, are usually all located in the garage. "That cold air could enter through a crack in the seal and cause them to burst."
Mock does not recommend using space heaters or blow dryers to heat pipes, either, as they are potential fire hazards.
The kids got the day off from school, but what about the working adults who have to venture into the Arctic environment in their automobiles?
Mike Goodwin from Buddy's Automotive in Independence had this to say about taking care of your car during these winter months.
"Make sure your battery cables are clean and clear from contaminants, and also your antifreeze is topped off." He also said to make sure your tires are aired correctly and that even new tires tend to lose air in the cold weather. As for starting your car in the cold morning, "make sure everything is turned off ... when you go to start it. You need maximum voltage in order to start."
And what if you're tired of being cooped up in the house and want to do something outdoorsy?
Missouri Conservationist Bob Mattucks said if you're wanting to go ice fishing or ice skating, one should always take the utmost caution in doing so.
"Currently there is a layer of rotten ice sitting on top of our lakes or ponds," said Mattucks. "Check everywhere you possibly go with a test pole. We (Missouri Conservation) never tell that it is safe. It is common, especially during these weather conditions, that you may experience a pocket of warm water beneath."
He said the only time you should ice skate or walk on a frozen pond is when there is 4 to 6 inches of clear, visible ice that can be measured by a pole.
"Always use safety equipment," Mattucks continued. "Even wear a life jacket when you're ice fishing. Bring hand picks, too. And that's just for human traffic on the water."
There are also many warming shelters being offered through the week in Eastern Jackson County, particularly Independence, where people in need can escape the bitter cold and avoid getting frostbite.
Mid-Continent Public Library North Independence, South Independence branches and its Genealogy Center on Lee's Summit Road in Independence will provide warming centers for people needing to avoid the cold weather during their regular hours of operation from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. this week.
According to Jessica Ford from Mid-Continent, they have housed a total of nearly 1,600 people so far over the past three days.
The Salvation Army's Crossroads shelter provided an overnight refuge for people who didn't have a place to stay warm this past weekend. People requesting to spend the night needed to undergo a background and drug check beforehand and could sleep on a cot.
"Right now we're good in terms of capacity," said Cathy Asher of the Salvation Army. "We'll be open at Crossroads if the weather continues to be like this."