Arctic air and temperatures are forecast to take over the area beginning tonight and run through the middle of next week.

The National Weather Service/Chicago said this will be the coldest weather since late January 2019.

There will be several days with lows near or below zero and wind chills at times well below zero. Fast-moving disturbances could also bring periods of fluffy snow at times and light to moderate accumulations Saturday afternoon through Monday night. Forecasters say to plan for a long duration of much colder weather than we’ve grown accustomed to this winter.

NWS meteorologist Kevin Birk said the area could see 1 to 2 inches of snow today before the cold air mass rolls with wind gusts up to 40 mph Thursday night.

“This is part of the coldest parts of winter,” Birk said.

This would be more uncommon if it came in late February or early March, he explained.

“There is a shift in the jet stream that is bringing a pretty good air mass from Canada,” Birk said. The native of St. Louis has been with the NWS for 14 years, including the last 11 at Chicago.

Health

If you must travel, Dr. Michael Yokell of AMITA Health St. Mary’s Hospital said to dress in layers, including wearing a scarf and hat.

“People should plan ahead,” said Yokell, who is the medical director of the emergency department at St. Mary’s.

Staying outside for long periods of time in these conditions could lead to frostnip, frostbite and hypothermia.

The colder it is, the faster they can happen. Under arctic blast conditions, where wind and cold bring temperatures to subzero, these conditions can occur in a matter of minutes.

Frostnip affects the nose, ears, fingers and toes. They become numb and the skin turns pale or dusky, Yokell said.

Frostbite goes deeper into the body’s tissue. It decreases the blood flow and oxygen.

If medical attention is delayed, Yokell said it could lead to gangrene or amputation.

Mayo Clinic’s website said exposed skin in cold, windy weather is most vulnerable to frostbite. But frostbite can occur on skin covered by gloves or other clothing.

Hypothermia occurs when your body loses heat faster than it can produce heat, causing dangerously low body temperature.

Yokell said normal body temperature is around 98.6 Fahrenheit. Hypothermia occurs as your body temperature falls below 95 Fahrenheit.

When your body temperature drops, your heart, nervous system and other organs can’t work normally. Left untreated, hypothermia can lead to complete failure of your heart and respiratory system and eventually to death.

Hypothermia is treatable by warming the body’s core temperature.

“People should refrain from consuming alcohol,” Yokell said. “It causes the body to feel warm. The blood is being drawn from the body’s organs to the skin, thus making a person think they feel warm.

Yokell said they have treated patients for hypothermia this winter.

Driving

The Illinois State Police suggests that you refrain from traveling during inclement weather.

If you must, they recommend that you:

• Dress warmly for the weather-dress in layers of loose-fitting, lightweight clothing in anticipation of unexpected winter weather emergencies.

• Make sure someone is aware of your travel plans. If traveling a long distance, let someone know your route and estimated departure and arrival time.

• Make sure your cell phone is fully charged. Also be sure to keep a cell phone charger with you in your vehicle.

• Always carry an emergency car care kit that contains jumper cables, flares or reflectors, windshield washer fluid, a small ice scraper, traction material, blankets, non-perishable food and a first aid kit.

Fire safety

As temperatures are set to drop, residents will undoubtedly be looking for ways to stay warm. But not all ways are safe ways.

Grant Park Fire Protection District Chief Matt Shronts advises residents to keep anything that can burn at least 3 feet away from heating equipment, like the furnace, wood stoves, or portable space heaters.

He provided these additional winter safety tips:

• Never use your oven to heat your home.

• Have furnaces and chimneys cleaned and inspected every year by a qualified professional.

• Carbon monoxide alarms should be installed in a central location outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home.

• Test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors monthly. Replace batteries every six months.

• During and after a snowstorm, make sure all vents for the dryer, furnace, stove and fireplace are clear of snow build up.

• Remember to clear away deep snow from the area around your gas meter and to clean off excess snow from your gas meter preventing ice build up which can potentially cause the vents to be blocked and allow excess gas pressure into the home.

Water pipes

Aqua Illinois advises that if temperatures drop to close to 10 degrees, leave a very thin stream of water running constantly from at least one tap. Aqua recommends using the tap farthest from the meter. The additional expense in your water bill will be minimal compared to the cost to replace a ruptured pipe, the utility said.

It also advised the following:

• Check the water temperature by placing a thermometer under the tap.

• Open cabinet doors below all sinks to allow the warmth from inside your house to reach your pipes. Before you follow this tip, be sure to remove all harmful items from beneath the sink.

• If you have a frozen pipe, locate the frozen section and use a hair dryer to thaw the area. Hold it six inches away and move it back and forth. If this doesn’t work, call a plumber.

Pets

Cats and dogs should be kept inside during cold weather. It’s a common belief that dogs and cats are more resistant than people to cold weather because of their fur, but it’s untrue, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Like people, cats and dogs are susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia and should be kept inside. Longer-haired and thick-coated dog breeds, such as huskies and other dogs bred for colder climates, are more tolerant of cold weather; but no pet should be left outside for long periods in below-freezing weather.

If you are unable to keep your dog inside during cold weather, provide him/her with a warm, solid shelter against wind. Make sure that they have unlimited access to fresh, non-frozen water (by changing the water frequently or using a pet-safe, heated water bowl). The floor of the shelter should be off of the ground (to minimize heat loss into the ground) and the bedding should be thick, dry and changed regularly to provide a warm, dry environment.

Jeff Bonty is a reporter for The Daily Journal. He can be reached at jbonty@daily-journal.com and 815-937-3366.