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Doctors Advise Caution With Subzero Temps In MN

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Subzero temperatures will be making a record-breaking late appearance in Minnesota. The last time Minnesota saw temps below zero this late in the year was more than 120 years ago. Now, doctors have a message of caution: Be prepared.

Doctors fear winter's late appearance puts us at greater risk for frostbite simply because we're not prepared. It's tough to go from temperatures one week in the 50s and the next week, to subzero.

One of the groups at most risk, the more than 9,000 homeless people looking for shelter on what could be the coldest night of the year.

"I think it's just perception. People are just used to the warm weather so they are going out in their lighter weight jackets, they're not prepared for the cold," said Emergency Medicine Dr. Kate Katzung, of Regions Hospital.

Katzung said select groups need to take extra caution: Including those with asthma, the elderly and children-who should try and limit their time outside.

"The best thing for prevention is being prepared, so we're thinking warm clothing, hats, boots, thick gloves, thick socks," said Katzung.

Katzung also cautions everyone to look out for signs of frostbite.

"First stage would be the frost nip, that's going to be redness and pain. Second stage is where we become a little more concerned, that's where you're feeling numbness and we see some blanching of the skin, so it's becoming white," said Katzung.

Twin Cities homeless shelters are filled beyond capacity and the Salvation Army has even opened up a "temporary winter shelter" at the First Covenant Church in downtown Minneapolis.

John Holmes, who is homeless, said the stretch of mild winter weather has been for him -- and his friends -- a Godsend.

"Not a lot of places you can go during the day, if you have nothing to do, and sit there all day," said Holmes.

Several of those shelters are looking for donations from the public, including warm clothing, blankets and food.

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