(TNS) — Even before the worst of the polar vortex gripped the Midwest, emergency rooms here already had treated several patients with cold-weather-related injuries.
Now, the arctic air that’s enveloping the Rock River Valley gets truly dangerous with wind chill values on Wednesday that could plummet as low as 54 degrees below zero, according to the National Weather Service.
The record low temperatures spurred dire warnings from meteorologists, widespread closures of schools and businesses and led to a disaster proclamation from Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who said a wide variety of state resources will be available to help communities affected by the winter storms and bitter cold weather.
The Illinois Department of Public Health said frostbite could set in on exposed skin within 10 to 15 minutes in the expected cold.
“Stay home and stay out of the elements,” said Dr. John Pakiela, a physician at Mercyhealth’s Javon Bea Hospital and Physician Clinic-Rockton who also accompanies paramedics on the most serious emergency calls.
Several patients at the hospital had broken bones Tuesday after falling on ice. Some experienced chest pain or shortness of breath after shoveling snow. Others were frostbitten, especially on fingers, toes and noses. And several were poisoned with carbon monoxide after furnaces or dryer vents became blocked by snow or residents were warming up cars for long periods in closed garages. This all before the coldest temperatures arrived.
“We worry about the elderly and very young and homeless,” especially in subzero temperatures, Pakiela said.
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