Extreme Cold

Extreme Cold in Los Angeles County

Although recent weather patterns and trends have shown that Los Angeles County is experiencing warmer temperatures overall, cold temperatures can still affect residents during the winter season, especially in desert and mountainous areas. The County’s territory has altitudes that vary from nine feet below sea level (in the unincorporated community of Wilmington) to 10,080 feet above sea level at Mt. San Antonio.

Winter storms can bring extreme cold, freezing rain, snow, ice and high winds. They may result in higher risk of car accidents, hypothermia, frostbite, carbon monoxide poisoning and heart attacks from overexertion. Winter storms and extreme cold can last a few hours, or several days, and can knock out heat, power and communication services. Some populations, such as older adults, young children, people with disabilities and individuals experiencing homelessness may be at greater risk. Use the information in this section to ready yourself, your family and community members for winter weather and extreme cold.

Staying Safe: Before the Extreme Cold

You can reduce the potential impacts of extreme cold weather by doing the following:

  • Pay attention to weather reports and warnings of winter storms and extreme cold conditions.
  • Sign up for weather service alerts.
  • Register with your community’s local emergency mass notification system. To be notified of County-wide disasters or emergencies impacting unincorporated communities, sign up to receive emergency notifications from Alert LA County. Many Cities, special districts, employers, schools and universities may each have their own emergency notification systems. Identify and sign up for the emergency notification system utilized by your city.
  • Make a disaster supply kit that includes enough food, water and medications that could last for at least 10 days. Keep it handy if case you have to relocate or evacuate immediately, or if your utility services are cut off. Don’t forget the needs of pets, and keep in minds each person’s specific needs when creating your supply kit. View more information on keeping supplies for emergencies and disasters.
  • Prepare your home to keep out the cold with insulation, caulking and weather stripping. Learn how to keep pipes from freezing. Install and test smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors with battery backups.
  • Prepare for power outages. Find more information about preparing for power outages.
  • Learn the signs of, and basic treatments for, frostbite and hypothermia.
  • If you use an outdoor generator at home, place it at least 10 feet away from all doors and windows to avoid exhaust gases entering your home.
  • Stoves, barbecues and ovens can produce a deadly gas knows as carbon monoxide when used to heat a home. Never use these appliances in place of approved heaters such as electric, natural gas or fireplaces. 

Quick Tip: Know Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Shortness of breath, headaches, muscle and joint pain, and nausea can all be symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning. Exposure to high levels of carbon monoxide could lead to death within minutes. Those suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning should be taken outside, into fresh air, immediately, and should be taken to an emergency room for immediate medical treatment.

Quick Tip: Know Symptoms of Frostbite and Hypothermia

Frostbite causes loss of feeling and color around the face, fingers and toes. Some visible signs are: numbness, white or grayish-yellow skin, or firm or waxy skin. If you are experiencing this, or see someone else who is, go to a warm room and soak in warm water. Use body heat to warm. Do not massage or use a heating pad.

Hypothermia is an unusually low body temperature. A temperature below 95 degrees is an emergency. Some signs of hypothermia are: shivering, exhaustion, confusion, fumbling hands, memory loss, slurred speech or drowsiness. If you or someone else is experiencing these symptoms, go to a warm room. Warm the center of the body first – chest, neck, head and groin. Keep dry and wrapped up in warm blankets, including the head and neck.

Staying Safe: During Extreme Cold

Avoid Driving

Stay off roads and avoid driving, if at all possible.

Dress Warmly

Limit your time outside. If you need to go outside, wear layers of warm clothing and protect your extremities by wearing gloves, scarves, socks and a hat.

Stay Warm Indoors

During peak cold times, if you do not have a heater in your home, visit indoor public facilities such as senior and community centers, shopping malls and libraries.

Bring Pets Indoors

If you have pets, bring them indoors and do not leave them outside overnight.

Do Not Use Oven as a Heater

Never heat your home with a gas stovetop or oven.

Help Others at Risk

Offer to help those in your neighborhood with limited access to heat, such as seniors or those who are ill. Check on them frequently. Watch for symptoms of frostbite and hypothermia, and begin treatment right away.

Los Angeles County residents and business owners, including persons with disabilities and others with access and functional needs may call 211 LA County for emergency preparedness information and other referral services. The toll-free 2-1-1 number is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 211 LA County services can also be accessed online by visiting www.211la.org.

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