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Maryland Department of Health urges residents to follow safety tips, take precautions amid extreme cold forecast

December 22nd, 2022 by WCBC Radio

Maryland will see bitter cold temperatures across the state this holiday weekend, with winter storm warnings and advisories in effect today for Allegany, Frederick, Garrett, and Washington Counties. In addition, dangerously cold wind chills will be possible Friday morning through Saturday evening across much of the state. The Maryland Department of Health (MDH) encourages residents to prepare and protect themselves. 


“With a severe cold forecast for the state this weekend, now is the time to make sure you have a plan to help keep yourself and your loved ones healthy and safe,” said Deputy Secretary for Public Health Dr. Jinlene Chan. “Take precautions and dress appropriately. Keep a cold weather emergency kit close by and stay informed about any changes in the weather. Also, be sure to check on neighbors and relatives, especially the elderly who are more susceptible to cold-related illnesses.”


From November through March, the MDH Office of Preparedness and Response (OP&R) monitors temperature, weather conditions and incidence of cold-related illnesses and deaths in the state. During the 2021-2022 winter weather season, MDH reported 45 cold-related deaths.


Cold-related illness includes conditions like hypothermia and frostbite. Hypothermia occurs when the body’s temperature falls below 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Frostbite is the freezing and destruction of body tissue that occurs when skin temperature is below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Body parts that are most likely to freeze include toes, fingers, ears, cheeks and the tip of the nose.


Follow these tips to protect yourself: 

  • Cover your head. You lose as much as 50% of your body heat through your head. Also, cover your mouth with a scarf to protect your lungs from direct cold air, as well as your ears and lower part of your face.
  • Wear several layers of lightweight, loose-fitting clothing. The air between the layers acts as insulation to keep you warmer.
  • Wear mittens rather than fingered gloves. The close contact of fingers helps keep your hands warm.
  • Wear warm leg coverings and heavy socks or two pairs of lightweight socks.
  • Wear waterproof boots or sturdy shoes to keep your feet warm and dry.
  • Be alert to such common winter hazards as carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning and injuries from heat sources. 
    • CO is produced by small gasoline engines, stoves, generators, lanterns and gas ranges or by the burning of charcoal and wood. 
    • This colorless, odorless gas can cause severe illness and death. Heating sources can also cause fires, electrical injuries and burns if not correctly installed, operated and maintained.
  • Review your family emergency communications plan and emergency supply kits for homes and vehicles. 
    • Each family member should know what to do and how to contact others in an emergency. The home emergency supply kit should include unexpired food items, medical supplies and batteries. 
    • Vehicles should contain such items as heavy blankets, water, nonperishable food, a flashlight and a snow shovel. More information on emergency preparedness is available here.

Residents in need of warming centers are encouraged to reach out to their local health department or call 2-1-1 and provide their county location and zip code to get information about warming center locations, hours of operation and available accommodations. 


More resources to help stay safe in cold weather — including cold-related illness surveillance reports, information about how to prevent cold-related illnesses, how to safely heat your home and how to drive safely in winter weather — are available via the OP&R Extreme Cold Resources page: