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Cold snap hits Antelope Valley

Benefit from a few helpful tips for keeping warm

Merdies Hayes | 12/13/2013, midnight

By now, Antelope Valley residents have experienced some of the nation’s wildest weather fluctuations. From temperatures as high as 110 degrees in Palmdale this summer, to 15 degrees overnight last weekend in Lancaster, public health officials again urge that you prepare for wild weather in this part of the Mojave Desert. With temperatures through the new year expected to fall to near the freezing point, there are methods available to keep warm and, just maybe, help keep the cost of heating bearable.

The National Weather Service announced recently that the average low this winter in the Antelope Valley will hover around 23 degrees. This week, the Los Angeles County Health Officer has extended a cold weather alert for Antelope Valley residents for the rest of the year. That means more frigid temperatures should be expected through the end of the month (anywhere from 12 to 22 degrees).

Each winter, there are reports of people dying because they may have used an unvented gas heater or burn the gas range for heat, or have even converted a garage into living quarters. In this case, they may use a electric heater that, if left on too long, will cause a power surge and result in a fire.

Also this week, the city of Palmdale urged residents to turn off their sprinklers during the current cold snap, because overspray from lawn watering can turn to ice on pavement and create unsafe conditions for pedestrians as well as vehicles.

“During this very cold weather we’re experiencing, we’re seeing many areas where overspray is hitting sidewalks and streets and freezing up,” said Palmdale’s street maintenance supervisor Bruce Roadhouse. “This is creating unsafe conditions for pedestrians, especially all the children who are heading to school in the morning. By turning off or setting them to water later in the day, it will stop this from happening.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that about 700 people nationwide die this time of year from hypothermia. The CDC also reports that carbon monoxide poisoning is the leading cause of accidental poisoning deaths in the United States—about 500 people each year—with about half of these deaths occuring in the winter months. The odorless, tasteless and colorless gas can be emitted from poorly functioning or unvented furnaces or other gas-powered home appliances. Most victims die in their sleep without experiencing the early warning signs like headaches, dizziness or nausea.

“We want to remind people not to use stoves, barbecues or ovens to heat their homes due to the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning,” said Dr. Jonathan E. Fielding, director of public health for Los Angeles County. “There are places where people can go to stay warm, such as shelters or other public facilities. Children, the elderly, and people with disabilities or special needs are especially vulnerable during such cold snaps. Care should be taken to ensure they don’t get too cold when they are outside.”

Exposure to high levels of carbon monoxide can lead to death in a few minutes. Therefore, if you have a gas heater and the pilot is out, turn off the gas (counter clockwise) and make an appointment with the Southern California Gas Co. and the agency will dispatch a service representative to light the pilot free of charge.