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Frostbite, Hypothermia & Frozen Pipe Concerns Rise As Temperatures Fall

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – With frigid temperatures, biting winds and blustery conditions, staying warm has been a challenge for Pittsburghers across the area.

A Wind Chill Advisory remains in effect until 1 p.m. Thursday.

And while most people could live without it, we found some Pittsburghers who are not complaining.

KDKA's Ralph Iannotti Reports:

On the Roberto Clemente Bridge on Wednesday evening, one man said he prefers the cold to the rain.

"Usually, I ride my bike but when it's this cold I walk. It's a different view of the city," he said.

Another woman said this is what people should expect in January in southwestern Pennsylvania.

"I would rather it be summer, but you live in Pittsburgh, so just deal with it. You knew it was coming, can't really be surprised," she said.

At the PPG Plaza outdoor ice skating rink, two teenagers from Elizabeth Borough were enjoying themselves, unaffected by the sub-freezing temperatures.

They said they each had layers and layers of clothes on to stay warm.

In the city's Sheraden neighborhood, Sayeeida Taylor and her family were forced from their Berry Street home when the gas company found their furnace was leaking fumes.

"He tells me there's a few leaks here and there, there's carbon monoxide leaks and he shut everything off," said Taylor. "Last night, they just shut the furnace off; this time they shut all the gas off."

The Red Cross was helping the family find temporary shelter for the night.

And in Carnegie, officials say the Borough Building will be offering a warming center starting Thursday at 5 a.m., and continuing for the duration of the current cold spell.

KDKA's John Shumway Reports:

As if the cold and blowing snow isn't enough, wedge it through the canyons of downtown buildings and it can be flat out brutal, especially if you spend your day walking these wind tunnels.

"Keep moving," said Larry Klein, a postal carrier. "That's the key, keep moving."

From the motorcycle officer to the bike messengers, the wind can be biting.

"I have a facemask, big oversized gloves for the wind, and studded tires on my bicycle," said Corey Mastalski, a messenger. "I did two cross-country tours, 5,000 miles, so this is a walk in the park for me."

But for others, even layering is falling short.

"I have two jackets and a coat on, and I'm still cold," said Chanel Smith, of Brighton Heights.

And waiting for a bus in this is excruciating.

"Bitter cold, can't seem to get warm enough," said one bus rider.

But at least there's a warm bus a few minutes away. That's not the case though for those working in the open air far above the city streets.

"They're brutally cold; as you can tell from down here, it's probably five times worse up there with the wind blowing, depending on which side of the building you're on," said Dave Katich, of Local 3.

The cold temperatures can be extremely dangerous for your body, but experts have some advice for how to keep warm.

When temperatures get this low, concerns about frostbite and hypothermia grow.

To prevent frostbite, doctors recommend dressing in layers, limiting the amount of skin exposed and limiting your time outside.

Many people around Pittsburgh did just that, while others didn't.

"I forgot my hat so my ears are freezing," one woman said.

Another passerby said it's hard to get used to the temperatures considering how warm it was before.

"It's warm, then all of a sudden, boom, the first of the year you get pummeled with awful weather," they said.

It only takes a few minutes to develop frostbite, so watch for red or pale skin, prickling and numbness.

KDKA's Amy Wadas Reports:

Chuck Lantzman owns Snow and Ice Management Company of Pittsburgh on the North Side. He distributes different types of products to local hardware stores that are used to treat snow and ice.

"The best product in the cold temperatures is calcium chloride. It will work below zero degrees. It's not the cheapest product, but it does the job especially in cold temperatures," Lantzman said.

Lantzman said a bag of calcium chloride typically costs around $20, while a bag of rock salt costs around $7.

He said salt stops working around 15 degrees.

Lantzman's company is also responsible for plowing parking lots of local businesses. He has his staff out working in these bitter conditions all day, but has some guidelines in place.

"Stay out in short periods. Come back in and get warmed up. Working in these conditions is hard and it's not wise to be out in the extreme cold without taking breaks and getting warm," Lantzman said.

The more serious problem is hypothermia, which occurs when your body temperature drops below 95 degrees.

When that happens, your heart, nervous system and other organs can't function normally, which can lead to complete heart failure.

The cold temperatures also pose a risk to the pipes in your home.

Plumbers suggest leaving your kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors open to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. Additionally, plumbers recommend letting water trickle from the faucet to help prevent freezing.

"So, you put it in the center and you want the trickle to be enough that we know the water is coming through the hot and cold side and you're good," Joen Baethke said.

It's also important to keep your thermostat set to the same temperature both during the day and night.

If you're going to be out of town, it's recommended that you set your temperature no lower than 55 degrees.

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