Surviving This Arctic Blast, and the Next One

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It’s cold. Way too cold for this thin-blooded California boy. I throw on a sweatshirt when the temperature drops below 70. Below freezing? Just get me to the tropics, will ya?

But we’ll get through this cold snap and the rest of winter just fine if we use our brains and remain prepared for the worst.

For you, dear readers, I have combined the best advice from Caltrans, the City of Redding and other agencies with my years of newspaper experience covering holiday season tragedies to bring you the top 10 tips for surviving winter in Shasta County. Actually, I’ve got 11 tips, and that doesn’t include gems such as, “Don’t go the post office on the last Saturday before Christmas.” Here goes:

1. Clean the flue of your fireplace or woodstove or, better yet, have a professional do it. Every year, people’s houses burn down because of flue fires or because of flue cracks.

2. Don’t put fireplace and woodstove ash into anything other than a metal bucket, and never set a container of fireplace ash (even a metal bucket) on your wood deck. Ash can retain heat for days. I don’t know how many newspaper stories I wrote or edited about a family whose house burned down because they scooped ash into a plastic bucket and then set it on the deck.

3. Leave plenty of room – at least two or three feet – around a space heater, and turn it off if no adult is in the room.

4. Don’t use the oven, range or a gas or charcoal grill to heat the house. You could die from carbon monoxide poisoning.

5. Wrap all exposed water pipes with insulation to prevent freezing. If a pipe does freeze, thaw it with a hair dryer, not an open flame. And turn off your lawn and garden sprinklers.

6. To make power outages more comfortable, maintain a supply of flashlights, batteries, nonperishable food, manual can openers, candles, matches and bottled water. Just remember never to leave burning candles unattended.

7. If you must drive in freezing, wet or snowy weather, allow plenty of time for travel and slow the heck down. Monitor highway conditions on the Caltrans website, or call the Caltrans hotline at (800) 427-ROAD.

8. Keep snow chains, working flashlights, blankets, an ice scraper, gloves, an extra jacket or two, a warm hat or two, a few snacks and a cell phone charger in your car. If you’re heading into the high country, also carry a shovel and a bag of sand or kitty litter to help get your vehicle out of deep snow.

9. If you drive a pickup truck without a shell, load a couple hundred pounds of weight in the bed, ideally right over the axel, to produce better traction in slippery conditions. A couple bags of concrete work great. So do a few bundles of wet newspaper.

10. If you think you’ll need a portable generator, buy it now. If you wait until a big power outage, you’ll find the stores are sold out.

11. When heading into the great outdoors, whether on skis, snowshoes, bicycle, snowmobile or ATV, know where you are going and be prepared to take care of yourself and everyone in your party. Don’t assume a cell phone call will save your lost and frozen butt.

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• Speaking of wintertime travel … the rest stops on Interstate 5 in Corning and Willows will be closed for the next several weeks. That’s right, no I-5 rest stops will be open between Red Bluff and Maxwell (just north of Williams) during the Thanksgiving weekend. Swell timing.

• The heat stays on … Last month’s Celebrity Soup Kitchen at the Redding Veteran’s Hall raised nearly $15,000 to help low-income seniors pay their energy bills. The Shasta County Older Adult Policy Council and more than 100 volunteers dished up 155 gallons of soup for 424 diners at the ninth annual event. Good work, folks.

• Congrats to Anderson-based Pre-employ.com, which has been named one of the top 13 employee screening and assessment providers in the nation by HRO Magazine.

• More awards … Mercy Medical Center Redding has received the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association’s Gold Plus Performance Achievement Award for its care and education of stroke patients.

shigley-mugshotPaul Shigley is senior editor of California Planning & Development Report, a frequent contributor to Planning magazine and co-author of Guide to California Planning, and wonders how this could be the place where it’s 115 in the summer. He lives in Centerville. Paul Shigley may be reached at pauls.anewscafe@gmail.com.

A News Cafe, founded in Shasta County by Redding, CA journalist Doni Greenberg, is the place for people craving local Northern California news, commentary, food, arts and entertainment.

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has been a professional journalist since 1987. For 12 years, he served as editor or senior editor of California Planning & Development Report, a statewide trade publication for land use planners, real estate development professionals and attorneys. Prior to that, he worked as a reporter or editor at newspapers in Redding, Grass Valley, Napa and Calistoga. Shigley's work also has appeared in the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, Planning magazine, Governing magazine, California Law Week, National Speed Sport News and elsewhere. In addition, he is co-author of Guide to California Planning, a college text and reference book, and is currently working on a book for the American Planning Association about the Bay Delta and California water resources. A graduate of California State University, Sacramento, Shigley has contributed to A News Cafe since 2009. He and his wife, Dana, live in western Shasta County.
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