Time when precautions are especially urgent

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Living in a northern climate, we're accustomed to winter. But the severity of the weather so far this season has caught people off guard. When we see a report that the storm late last week is deemed a factor behind 16 deaths in the northeastern United States, the apparent lack of preparation becomes that much more evident.

Locally, we're hearing sad stories of losses that simply shouldn't happen. A news report from the Halifax area said a dog had died of exposure to the extreme cold of last week. That prompted warnings from veterinarians about precautions and the need to be aware at all times where your pet is. It would seem common sense, but again, with the difficulties people are facing in dealing with the weather, many might be in a frantic state and distracted.

Another dilemma many had to face last week when temperatures dipped below -25C was frozen pipes, along with the likelihood of bursting and interior flooding as temperatures warmed again. That also elicited a warning from safety pros not to try to thaw them with any kind of open flame. People up against this kind of risk in their homes, depending on where pipes are located, might well be thinking about having a space heater handy for such extreme instances – a great idea as long as the power doesn't fail.

The incredible amount of snow so far has people shaking their heads, and frantically trying to keep ahead of it in their driveways. As health professionals point out, it's a good idea to pace yourself with shovelling, especially for those not used to strenuous activity.

But it is important to keep access clear – along with civic numbers – in the event that emergency services are needed. Keeping an eye out that neighbours are doing OK could also be a life saver. But that's a community-minded generosity people in this county are good at on a regular basis.

This isn't anywhere near the point of an apocalyptic end of days, but it could be for anyone who doesn't exercise caution.

Geographic location: United States, Halifax

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