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Oh, (cold) snap! Frigid temps strike area

  • Tim Vernon keeps warm with a cigar in frigid temperatures during construction work on the Olive Street parking garage on Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2017 in Greenfield. RECORDER STAFF/DAN LITTLE

  • Construction crews work through frigid temperatures drilling the foundation for the Olive Street parking garage on Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2017 in Greenfield. RECORDER STAFF/DAN LITTLE

  • Jake Mumford keeps warm in frigid temperatures during construction work on the Olive Street parking garage on Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2017 in Greenfield. RECORDER STAFF/DAN LITTLE

  • Bradford Berry works through frigid temperatures while constructing the foundation for the Olive Street parking garage on Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2017 in Greenfield. RECORDER STAFF/DAN LITTLE

  • Bradford Berry works through frigid temperatures while constructing the foundation for the Olive Street parking garage on Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2017 in Greenfield. RECORDER STAFF/DAN LITTLE



Recorder Staff
Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Baby, it’s cold outside. Like, really, really cold outside. And as experts say it will be like this a while, local officials offer advice for coping.

An end-of-year cold snap like this hasn’t been seen in at least 15 years, when late December highs have generally been in the 30s and 40s. Greenfield experienced temperatures in the single digits on Wednesday, and today and Friday will probably hover around 10 degrees.

We’ve certainly seen higher. In 2011, the highs ranged to 54 and in 2015, we felt 62 in late December.

The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency warns of frigid temperatures throughout the state the rest of this week, potentially lasting into the middle of next week. Daytime high temperatures will likely not rise above the teens through the weekend, with some areas not breaking out of the single digits.

Bill Simpson, spokesman for the National Weather Service’s Taunton office, said western Massachusetts can expect wind chills below zero degrees.

These temperatures increase the risk of frozen pipes, which in turn increases the number of ways people try to harness heat to thaw them.

Greenfield Fire Chief Robert Strahan said it is fine to apply heat to a frozen pipe via an electric heating pad or hair dryer, but an open flame — like that of a blowtorch — should never be used.

“We have seen that over the years,” he said.

Strahan suggests leaving cabinet doors open to help better circulate warm air. He said home temperatures should never dip below 55 degrees, even if you are away on vacation. He also recommends keeping combustible material at least 3 feet away from heat sources such as fireplaces and furnaces.

“Each season has its own challenges as far as fire prevention is concerned,” he said. “But we do see a spike in ... residential structure fires (this time of year).”

Leon Ambo, deputy chief of the Turners Falls Fire Department, stresses that heat sources should never be left unattended. He also said letting water trickle from faucets will help prevent frozen pipes because running water does not freeze as easily as water that isn’t flowing.

The state Department of Fire Services recommends keeping a home’s thermostat at the same temperature day and night.

“By temporarily suspending the use of lower nighttime temperatures, you may incur a higher heating bill, but you can prevent a much more costly repair job if pipes freeze and burst,” a press release states, adding that people should not hesitate to contact a licensed plumber if there is any concern about locating frozen pipes or thawing them.

The fire services department also strongly suggests having functional smoke and carbon monoxide alarms on every level of a home and cautions against leaving open the door of a gas oven, as it will produce large amounts of carbon monoxide.

Other hazards

Freezing temperatures also make for more slippery surfaces.

Tim Seymour, manager of the Aubuchon Hardware at 312 Federal St. in Greenfield, said ice-melting agents like rock salt and calcium chloride have been flying out of the store. Shortly before 1 p.m. on Wednesday, he said he was ready to unload a truck of 28 pallets of rock salt that had just been delivered. He said rock salt is great for adding traction to surfaces, though it eats up concrete and rarely melts snow or ice if temperatures go below roughly 10 degrees. Calcium chloride, he said, works at just about any temperature.

So far this season, Seymour said his store has sold plenty of shovels and heavy-duty gloves, as well as hundreds of ice scrapers.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 258. On Twitter: @DomenicPoli