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With Bitter Blast Moving In, Plan For Safety Before Heading Outdoors

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- The tumbling temperature means families will need to be extra careful enjoying all of this new snow.

Bitter cold will settle in Wednesday, with the high temperatures for the day in the single digits and lows below zero. The wind chill will plummet even further. That has doctors hoping people will put safety first before enjoying the outdoors.

The sledding hill was busy Tuesday afternoon at Beard's Plaisance Park near Lake Harriet. Kari Krautbauer, her husband Patrick Sweetman, and their 18-month-old son James were happily positioned on the smaller slope.

"It's [James'] first time sledding and he loves it. He wants us to pull him up more and more," Krautbauer said.

It's a good thing they enjoyed it Tuesday when temperatures were in the 20s, given that they'll drop to near zero overnight. With temps hovering in that dangerous zone for several days, Dr. Jim Miner knows he'll be busy. He's the chair of emergency medicine at Hennepin Healthcare.

"The stuff we've seen show up in our emergency department tends to be 'I just went out there for a few minutes, I thought I was gonna be OK,'" he said.

That story is usually from someone with frostbite. People might shovel without gloves thinking they'll be quick. Five minutes outside turns into 20 minutes, which then turns dangerous.

"As you get cold, things tend to go numb. They hurt for a second and then they go numb and you really can't tell how much worse it's getting, how quickly," Dr. Miner said.

Slipping On Ice
(credit: CBS)

Slips and falls have been a problem since Monday morning, when freezing drizzle added a slippery crust to the snowfall.

"Like a cartoon, feet up in the air straight on my back," said Sweetman as he described his fall near a parking ramp Monday.

Temperatures in the teens, along with sunshine, could melt the problem away, but that won't happen in the days ahead. Dr. Miner anticipates more people to visit the emergency room with injuries from slipping, especially broken wrists.

"If you can see the ice, it's one thing, but if you're just walking along and you think you're walking on snow and all of a sudden you're on glare ice, people tend to drop," Dr. Miner said. "When it's really, really cold, single digits or below zero, that ice will just stay there no matter how bright the sun's shining on it sometimes."

That's why Yianni Polydorou was hard at work Tuesday evening, clearing the sidewalk outside his sister-in-law's home. He doesn't want people walking by to take a tumble. He also happens to enjoy the exercise that comes with shoveling.

"Even though I have a snow blower, I avoid it as much as I can," he said.

If you will be outside in the days ahead, such as for a job, Dr. Miner said layering around your core is important. Doing so will help keep your hands and feet warm.

He also suggests having a place nearby where you can warm up, somewhere indoors, just in case you start developing early stages of frostbite or hypothermia.

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