Tallahatchie County got its first bone-chilling blast of the season this week when an arctic cold front plowed through the Mid-South.
The high Monday was about 60. Then the low pressure system marched into the area bringing rain and a blustery wind, and the mercury began a steady decline of nearly 40 degrees. Overnight, temps dipped into the low 20s and we were pelted by freezing rain and sleet. The daytime high Tuesday struggled to reach the freezing mark. Tuesday night brought some record lows, with upper teens in our area.
When the cold invades, we Southerners waste little time reacting to the annual onslaught of northern aggression. In addition to breaking out jackets, blankets and quilts, we fire up our heat-generating devices.
Problem is, those can increase the risk of house fires.
State Fire Marshal Mike Chaney said last week that there have been 52 fire deaths in Mississippi so far this year, with 15 caused by placing flammable material too close to space heaters, plugging heaters into malfunctioning extension cords or using equipment as a heat source when it was not designed for that purpose.
We should take heed to his following advice:
• All heating equipment should be UL approved and cleaned and inspected by a qualified professional prior to being used each year.
• Remember to keep clothes, drapes and anything else combustible at least 3 feet away from all heating equipment, especially space heaters.
• Inspect the space heater’s power cord for damage, fraying or heat. If the cord inspection reveals any of these issues, the heater should be replaced. Proper cleaning should be done regularly.
• Never use space heaters while you sleep or in areas where children may be without adult supervision.
• Don’t leave space heaters on when away from home.
• Unplug space heaters when not in use. Heaters also should be equipped with a tip-over shut-off switch.
• Never use a stove or oven to heat living spaces. Kerosene is a poor choice for heating as it will give off poisonous fumes.
• Have chimney flues cleaned and inspected by qualified personnel.
• Have a spark screen that is age appropriate for all individuals if using a fireplace.
• Burn only approved materials in a fireplace or wood-burning stove; never burn paper or trash in a fireplace or wood-burning stove.
• Have an emergency evacuation plan for the family to follow and have a designated meeting place for all family members. Once everyone is outside the burning home, call 911 and don’t go back inside.
Highs are supposed to hit the mid-60s next week, but we know the cold will return. Let’s all be thinking about how to stay not only warm, but safe.