First, the good news: By next Sunday, temperatures in the Quad-Cities are expected to be back up above 30 degrees for the first time since Feb. 4 when the high was 37 degrees.
The bad news is the Quad-Cities is going to have to brave a couple more days of high temps in the single digits and some snow before the real warm-up begins.
“I hate calling it a warm-up because we’re only getting into the 30s, but I will take it,” Meteorologist Timothy Gunkel of the National Weather Service, Davenport, said Sunday.
There is the chance for 1- to 2-inches of snow Monday, Gunkel said, “But it’s going to be light, fluffy snow that will be blowing around. At 4 degrees, we’re past the sticking point, so it might not even look like it snowed in some areas. It could make the roads a bit of a mess.”
Tuesday’s high is expected to be 9 degrees, but Gunkel said there may be some sun Tuesday.
The overnight lows Monday and Tuesday will be about minus 5 degrees.
Wednesday’s high is expected to reach 17, while Thursday’s high is expected to reach the lower 20s. Friday’s high is expected to be 17 under sunny skies. By Saturday the high is expected to be in the middle 20s, while Sunday’s high is expected to reach the middle 30s.
The normal high for this time of year in the Quad-Cities is 35 degrees. But the average high temperature for the month of February as of Sunday is 15.7 degrees.
The normal low temperature for this time of the year is 18, but the average low temperature so far for February is 3.35 degrees.
The average temperature for the month of February through Sunday is 9.52 degrees, about 15 degrees below the normal average.
However, it was cold in the Quad-Cities last year at this time, too. The high temperature on Feb. 14, 2020, was 13 degrees while the overnight low dipped to minus 8.
-- Thomas Geyer
'We can't ask customers to wait until Monday'
When a furnace goes out in sub-zero temperatures, it doesn't matter what day of the week it is.
"We're running over-time every day, and we installed furnaces last weekend," said Jason Bull, service manager at J.L. Brady, a Moline-based plumbing and heating company. "We can't ask customers to wait until Monday."
The weather-related service calls started ticking upward as soon as this year's mild winter became much less than mild in late January.
"We had a slow start to winter with the mild temps, but we're busy now," Bull said. "Furnace no-heats are the main problem; those we get to right away.
"With frozen pipes, we get to those quickly too."
He had tips for homeowners to self-diagnose certain furnace malfunctions and advice on avoiding freezing pipes.
"We tell customers to first check their furnace filters, then to make sure the batteries in the thermostat are good, if they use them," he said. "You also went to check the outside vent pipes, because they're usually pretty far off the ground, but they can get covered by drifting snow.
"There's usually a safety switch in furnaces that cause them to shut off in the event of a vent blockage."
Most filters should be replaced every month, he said, even if advertised as being good for three or six months. Pet hair and other factors can contribute to dirty furnace filters.
Bull also suggests keeping thermostats at a steady temperature during bitter-cold snaps. That way, the furnace doesn't have to work as hard to raise the temperature in a home after it's been turned down during nighttime hours, for instance.
But there's another reason: "If you set it back at night, it's likely to stop running for a period and that's when you can have issues with pipes freezing and so on.
"It's a matter of personal preference, but I throw an average of 68 degrees out there. Some like it a little warmer, and that's fine. You should keep a steady temp, though."
-- Barb Ickes
People are connecting outdoors
The mercury was just above zero at 11:27 a.m. Friday.
Marley high-stepped it through the snow covering Crow Creek Park on the end of a tether held by a smiling, friendly man wearing a red Trump hat.
"Marley and me came up to spend the day in the Q-C. It's too cold to do anything else," Otis Surratt said as Marley left the snow and headed to the open back of Surratt's mini-van. "We're from Roseville (Illinois), but I grew up in Iowa and we like to come to the Q-C for shopping and get out of the small town."
The 68-year-old Surratt said he was headed home when the 5-year-old white Lab demanded a walk.
"Marley likes to get out, too, when we're in town," Surratt said. He checked his watch.
"But she lasted just four minutes."
Crow Creek Park also is the home of three adjacent dog parks. The middle run was doing brisk business at 11:35 a.m. Friday, as five bundled-up humans stood like potential Popsicle sticks while six canines frolicked in the freeze.
Sam Bedow, a 17-year-old who attends Pleasant Valley High School braved the cold for a 10-month-old Springer Spaniel by the name of Oakley.
Bedow stood with 50-year-old James Preszler, who claimed the 15-month-old German Shepherd known as Adde.
"What are we doing out here?" asked Preszler, who wore three pairs of gloves and was starting to lose feelings in his toes. "Are you writing a story about the dumb people who come to the dog park in this weather?"
Bedow wore a Green Bay Packers knit cap with a green-and-yellow tassle at the top.
"We come out here every day," Bedow explained. "Oakley and Adde love running and playing together."
Preszler, who owns Chez Prez in Bettendorf, said their frigid conversation was the same they've had every time they cross paths at the dog park.
"Politics," Preszler said.
"We're both never-Trumpers," Bedow added.
-- Tom Loewy
Cars won't start
The extreme cold and snowy weather has been keeping Jon Medema very busy.
Medema is the owner of Action Auto Repair and Towing, 3869 Rockingham Rd., Davenport. He said the number of calls for drivers needing their vehicles jump started or pulled out of snow jumps by 60 to 75% on "bad weather days" due to the extreme weather.
His six employees, eight flatbed trucks and two wreckers are working hard to stay on top of demand.
"On the cold mornings after bad weather, we're pretty busy," Medema said. "We run anywhere from 40 to 100 calls in 24 hours, depending on how bad the weather is. We get a lot of jump starts and towing (calls) that increase significantly. There are a lot of bad weather accidents."
Although the business is open 24 hours, Medema said the busiest times are early in the morning and around 5 p.m. on weekdays, times when people are trying to leave for work or come home.
Sabrina Courtney, a dispatcher for the towing company, said this is the worst winter she's seen. She estimates the business gets at least 15 calls every day just from drivers needing their vehicles jump started.
"It's been really intense lately, especially with the temperatures going so low," Courtney said. "It affects the batteries a lot."
Unfortunately, some of the calls for service have been for rollover accidents due to snow and ice.
"It's a bear when it gets down this cold and we have to go out in it every day," Medema said.
-- Sarah Hayden
Fire danger rises
When it's sub-zero outside, it's a good time to be bundled up inside with a hot beverage and a heat source, but check the safety features of your space heater before turning it on and getting too comfortable.
Rock Island Fire Marshal Greg Marty says Rock Island hasn't seen any heater-related fires so far this year, but warns they have been common in years past.
His advice to stay safe:
• Every space heater should have a switch that shuts it off if the unit tips over.
• Space heaters should only be used in rooms that have someone in them.
• Heaters should not be used within 3 feet of anything combustible.
• Whenever possible, heaters should only be used on hard surfaces.
• Heaters should be kept out of areas where blankets or other combustibles could land on them or come in contact with them (so try not to cozy up too close to your heater with all your layers on).
-- Emily Andersen
Warming shelters are open
It's a little after 9 a.m. on Friday, and inside the Salvation Army building at at 100 Kirkwood Boulevard, Davenport, chairs are set up, coffee's on and there are coloring books for children.
There's everything you need for a warming shelter except people seeking warmth.
"We have not had one person," Major Robert Doliber, the Salvation Army's Quad-Cities coordinator, said of the space that had opened for its fifth day.
When dangerously cold temperatures began the first weekend in February, Doliber decided to open the building from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily for anyone who wanted to come in. Music, videos and simple snacks were made available, as well as masks for COVID-19 protection on a table at the door.
Doliber notified the United Way of the Quad-Cities and other social service agencies, but had no takers all week. "I didn't expect a lot of people, but I didn't expect no people," he said. "Hopefully people are getting out of the cold somewhere."
The doors will remain open Monday and Tuesday for sure, possibly longer if the bitter cold continues.
"Maybe there's not a need, but it's better to be open and not needed than needed and not open," he said.
-- Alma Gaul
Your house is an igloo
It's below-zero outside, should you keep your house at a steady temperature to stay warm?
That depends, according to MidAmerican Energy.
"In extreme cold, the advice depends on a customer’s home efficiency and furnace reliability," the company said.
If you live in an efficient home with a reliable furnace, you can continue to program your thermostat to lower the temperature at night to save energy (and money). But if you live in a less efficient house, with an older, less reliable furnace, that could stress the furnace out. Instead, reduce your thermostat to the lowest comfortable setting and hold it there until the cold snap has ended.
MidAmerican Energy suggests the following as well:
• Check your furnace filter. If the filter is dirty, replace it according to the furnace manufacturer’s recommendations.
• If your home furnace has outdoor plastic intake and exhaust vent pipes, clear any snow and ice to ensure they’re not blocked.
• Check your interior supply and return air vents, baseboards and radiators to make sure warm air can circulate indoors.
• To help keep your utility bill down, limit the use of space heaters when possible. Instead, add a layer of clothing or an extra blanket. If you use a space heater, place it at least three feet away from other objects. Shut it off when you go to sleep or leave the area.
• If you have window curtains, keep them closed at night to help stop cold air that leaks in through your windows. During the day, open them when it’s sunny to help warm your home. Close curtains on windows that are not in direct sunlight.
• If you feel cold air drafting in through windows or doors, consider adding weather stripping.
• Do not use a gas stove to heat your home and do not run a generator indoors. This can result in carbon monoxide poisoning.
• A working carbon monoxide detector is just as important as a smoke alarm. Test both regularly. Carbon monoxide is odorless. CO poisoning can cause flu-like symptoms – even death. If you suspect CO poisoning, dial 911, seek fresh air and remain outside or elsewhere until help arrives.
• If you smell natural gas, leave the area immediately. From another location at a safe distance, call MidAmerican Energy at 800-595-5325, and then dial 911.
• Hire a professional to inspect and service your furnace once a year to make sure it’s working correctly, which will help keep you safe and warm during the next cold snap.
It's dangerous out there
As arctic air maintains its cold grip on the Quad-Cities with sub-zero daily lows, highs barely sending the mercury above zero and wind chills as low as 25 to 30 below zero, signs of hypothermia can begin in less than a minute.
"It can be very, very quickly, within a few seconds (of) just being outside," said Sujata Karkare, internal medicine physician at UnityPoint Health–Trinity.
Hypothermia occurs when a person's core body temperature drops below 95 degrees Fahrenheit.
Signs and symptoms include: Shivering, dizziness, chest pain, irregular heartbeat, shallow breathing, exhaustion, confusion, memory loss and slurred speech.
"Almost like stroke-like symptoms," said Dave Dierks, emergency room medical director of the Genesis Health System's Davenport campuses.
Limit your outdoor exposure. Dress in several, loose layers. Keep yourself hydrated. Wear a hat and gloves, Dierks said.
"Don't try to go out there for a whole hour" to shovel the driveway or sidewalk, he said. "You want to go out there for 20-minute intervals. Get back inside, kind of warm up a little bit. Drink something warm. Rub your skin. Rub your hands, get that circulation going."
And it's not older adults or those with a chronic illness who need to worry, Karkare said.
"The cold weather acts like a narrowing of the blood vessels so it's a perfect recipe for a heart attack," she said. "And it's not just when you are shoveling snow or doing anything like that. ... The arteries of the heart will start spasming with the cold weather," absent any blockages.
The frigid air also bring with it risks of developing bronchitis or walking pneumonia, which can quickly result in a high fever and cough that requires hospitalization, Karkare said.
Additionally, Karkare and Dierks advise people to be aware of frostbite. The cold wind chills can cause frostbite on exposed skin in as little as 30 minutes, according to the National Weather Service of the Quad-Cities.
The first signs of frostbite include a waxy, pale appearance, followed by swelling, redness and a stinging, burning, throbbing or prickling sensation followed by numbness. If this occurs, head indoors immediately, health officials said.
"I've already had one person come in, they're just changing their tire and they come in with frostbite on their hand, because they weren't wearing any gloves," Dierks said. "They were out there for 20 minutes to 30 minutes and that's how quickly you can have a problem due to the cold."
All of which makes for a particularly dangerous combination for the frail and elderly, or those living alone, who slip and fall outside while getting the mail or shoveling the walk and become immobilized or suffer a head injury.
"If you live alone, make sure somebody knows you're going outside," Dierks said. "Have a phone or some other type of alert system to let people know that you've fallen."
Bottom line: Don't go outside unless absolutely necessary, Dierks said.
"If you do have to go out there, please, double, triple (the layers) of what you would normally wear," and cover as much exposed skin as possible, Dierks said.