Tonight we likely will experience the coldest temperatures so far this winter.

While the mercury will read in single digits, winds chills could drop as low as 17 below zero overnight.

Treat the cold weather with respect, especially if you have pets who spend most of the time outdoors or children who must go to a bus stop in the morning.

Whether you, your children, or other family members go outside, make sure adequate precautions are taken.

Wear layered clothing, be sure ears and head are covered, and wear gloves.

Children going to bus stops in the morning shouldn't leave too early. Frostbite can occur quickly and result in serious consequences.

Pets, especially, need special attention. If you have a dog that is kept outdoors, make sure the pet has plenty of shelter and materials for warmth.

The pet's water will freeze, so be sure change it frequently. Preferably bring the pet indoors.

Don't use metal dishes outdoors.

Another point to consider with this cold weather is to check on your neighbors if they are elderly or can't afford adequate heat. The elderly, especially, sometimes take shortcuts because they are on fixed incomes. Pay them a visit. Check on them. Make sure they are safe.

If using auxiliary heaters, be sure they are adequately ventilated and away from flammable items.

Carbon monoxide poisoning is a common cause of death, especially in the winter.

House fires happen too often in winter when heaters are placed too close to curtains, walls, and other items.

We've had a relatively mild winter until now. For the rest of the week, though, the weather will likely be brutal.

Another thing with the cold is to make sure your cars are adequately equipped. This doesn't mean just with proper tire inflation and the proper fluids.

It also means to keep a blanket in the car just in case you break down.

Winter has arrived with a vengeance. And there isn't anything we can do about it except handle the conditions accordingly.

This means using common sense.

We can't emphasize enough the importance of doing all we can to protect children, pets, and the elderly from the elements.

By RON GOWER

rgower@tnonline.com [1]