Cold weather brings added dangers

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With below-zero temperatures sticking around, icy roads and sidewalks are keeping auto body shops and hospitals busy.

When temperatures fall, the workload at Trubilt Collision Center in Eau Claire increases.

“It's usually front end impacts where they'll slide through a corner, hit a curb or someone else,” Trubilt owner Jerry Salter said.

He said crashes on slippery roads are often due to impatience.

“Four-wheel drives, SUVs, people think they can go faster, but those are the ones that usually when they hit the ditch, that hard crusty snow will flip you over. So it's really getting used to the vehicle you're driving and slow down,” Salter said.

But it's not just those on the roads who are at risk.

“Hypothermia is kind of a silent killer. What typically happens to people is that they start to shiver, then they actually start to feel a little warm, or they stop shivering after that. And it's not because they're warm. It's just their body has shut down to the point where it's getting dangerously cold,” Mayo Clinic Health System Nursing of Trauma Director Wayne Street said.

He said exposed skin can freeze within minutes, but even more common and dangerous is falling on icy sidewalks.

“When you fall, you can break your pelvis, you can have internal injuries, you can break some ribs and have bleeding in your lungs, or the worst case scenario is if you hit your head when you fall. Skull fractures, brain bleeds; we see them quite a bit actually,” Street said.

He suggested dressing in layers, using ice cleats, a walking stick, hand and toe warmers, and moving around to stay warm when it's necessary to be outside.

The Eau Claire Fire Department reminds you to clear furnace and water heater vents to keep them from freezing or plugging up, to prevent another danger, carbon monoxide poisoning.

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