Gov. Mark Dayton declared all schools closed on Monday as a frigid freeze encompasses the county.  The thermometer on the First State Bank Minnesota sign gave proof to just how far the temps dropped on Monday morning.
Gov. Mark Dayton declared all schools closed on Monday as a frigid freeze encompasses the county. The thermometer on the First State Bank Minnesota sign gave proof to just how far the temps dropped on Monday morning.
Brutal Arctic temperatures settled in around the area on Monday leaving no question winter is here with temperatures plummeting to -25 with wind chills in the -50s.

This weather is so bitter it can cause frostbite on exposed skin within as little as five minutes. Because of this Gov. Mark Dayton declared all Minnesota public schools closed on Monday; even businesses, churches and community group events were closed or canceled due to the frigid weather.

Temperatures this low can wreak havoc on the very things we depend on to keep us safe and moving - our homes and vehicles. It can prove to be very dangerous for furry loved ones, as well.

Several local businesses gave some insight into how to protect our homes, vehicles and pets.

Inside your home

A home's furnace is vital during frigid winter weather and, according to Phil Sheldon, owner of Sheldon Plumbing and Heating and Valley Appliance, simple maintenance can be key to keeping your system running smoothly.

• Make sure to change your filters regularly, typically, every three months, as this will help keep the furnace clean and run as efficiently as possible.

• Check the drain line in the furnace as these can get clogged and cause loss of heat and water damage to the furnace.

• To play it safe, have a maintenance check on your furnace every fall.

•If your thermostat uses batteries it is a good idea to replace them.

• To avoid the loss of heat check the seals of doors and windows and re-caulk or apply weather-stripping if necessary.

Outside your home

There are several steps homeowners can take to make sure the outside of their home is protected, as well.

•Keeping outside pipes for your furnace clear of snow and ice is essential according to Sheldon, so clean the area surrounding them after winter storms and snowfalls.

•Another trick Sheldon tells his customers, is to turn on all their basement lights at night, then go walk around the outside of your home and look for light escaping through holes. If light is coming through, so is your heat.

• In many homes pipes run along the walls, but during cold temperatures outer walls can become much colder than the rest of the home. To prevent freezing pipes you can use hay or any insulating material on the outside of your home along the outer walls or wrap the pipes with heating tape.

• Add extra insulation in the attic to prevent ice dams on your roof, which are caused by too much heat escaping into the attic, warming the ice and snow on the roof. When it refreezes this can cause what is called an ice dam leading to water damage in your home and possibly even a roof collapse. It is also wise to remember up to 70 percent of a home's heat can be lost through the roof.

Todd Jones, owner of True Value, says never try climbing on to the roof to clear the ice, as this can and has proved fatal. Instead, there are de-icing blocks homeowners can throw on to the roof to aid in the breakdown of ice.

• Jones also explained he has seen an influx of customers dealing with frozen vent pipes caused by condensation freezing once it reaches the outside air.

As with the ice dam it is never safe to climb on to the roof to deal with the issue. After doing some research and calling a plumber Jones found a much safer solution: running hot water. By running hot water the steam should effectively de-thaw the ice build-up, though it may take some time.

If this does not work insulation can be wrapped around the vent pipe in the attic.

• Sheldon and Jones agree, when the ground begins to freeze it is always important to disconnect your garden hose from the spigot. If it is left on for the winter water can freeze and create havoc for a home's interior water lines, the worst of which could be burst water pipes.

• Make sure to spread de-icing salt, sand or kitty litter on steps and sidewalks in the winter to ward off any potential slips or falls. As Jones stated, it is better and cheaper than a broken arm or lawsuit.

Vehicles

According to the service department at Zeimetz Motors, there are several preventative measures owners can take to keep their vehicles running strong throughout the winter.

• Make sure your battery and charging system are working at their peak performance, as they can lose power as the temperatures drop.

• Have your cooling system checked; this may include flushing and refilling the system. Using the correct antifreeze is also key. Coolant mix made for -40 is recommended for the winters in the upper Midwest.

• Tires tend to be the forgotten warriors of winter, but to get through, snow tires with good tread are quite important to get optimum traction.

• When the temperature falls and the wind is blowing, filling up at the gas station can be a daunting task and one that people will put off as long as they can. But remember never to let your tank get lower than a fourth of a tank or your gas lines may freeze.

• It is a good idea to make sure your windshield wiper fluid is made for freezing temperatures, as well. Just remember to always shut your wipers off, leaving them in the rest position before leaving your vehicle. If the wipers freeze to the windshield outside of this position the motor can burn out as it tries to put them into the correct placement.

• Carry a survival kit in your vehicle, in case of a breakdown or accident. These can include an extra ice scraper and boots, a shovel, flashlight, and warm clothes. Even a bag of sand or kitty litter can come in handy to gain extra traction if stuck.

Pets

"Use common sense." That is what Dr. James Parker of the Spring Valley Veterinary Clinic conveyed as the best way to keep your furry friends safe in this Arctic weather.

• Remember if it feels cold to you, it feels cold to your pet so limit their time outside. If they are predominantly outside make sure they have a dry, draft-free shelter and up their feed intake 25 to 50 percent since they will burn more energy trying to stay warm.

• When you do take your animal outside it is important to wipe their feet off when they come back inside. This will help melt any snow or ice chunks that may have accumulated in between their paws.

• Though Parker has found most ice melt to be relatively harmless to pets if their paws are cleaned off after a jaunt outside, it can lead to problems if left on the animals. The harshness of the chemicals can lead to issues of irritation of the paws and indigestion and diarrhea if ingested.

• Animals are attracted to the sweet smell and taste of antifreeze, so if your car has leaked or if you spill any of the chemical clean it up as quickly as possible. Ingestion of antifreeze can lead to kidney problems and even death. There are pet-friendly versions of ice melt available at your local hardware stores.

• And most importantly, Parker says pet owners should never hesitate to call their vet if they have any questions about the health or safety of their pet.

The blustery winter weather can seem miserable even if your home is warm and your vehicle is running right, but when they fail it can be disastrous. By using common sense and these maintenance tips you can survive the frigid temps and look forward to the warmer weather, green grass and longer days spring will bring.