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North Texas first responders urge residents to protect themselves ahead of returning cold front

A car makes it way along a snowy Cedar Springs Road on Monday, Jan. 15, 2024, in Dallas.
Yfat Yossifor
Dallas is expected to reach below freezing for the second time this month.

As below-freezing temperatures are expected to return this weekend, first responders in North Texas are encouraging residents to protect themselves against serious winter weather-related health risks.

MedStar Mobile Health, which serves Fort Worth and surrounding cities, says 38 patients were treated for hypothermia during last weekend’s storm.

“This is an important statistic for people to know that this cold weather is life threatening and it's real, and take precautions to protect yourself from suffering hypothermia,” chief transformation officer Matt Zavadsky said.

Zavadsky said these responses were primarily 911 calls from people in public locations and unprotected environments – including those experiencing homelessness and construction workers.

“In one case, it was someone who was out walking, and they slipped on a bridge over a river and fell into a river,” Zavadsky said.

Meanwhile, in Dallas, first responders saw lower reports this year compared to past winter storms, said Dallas Fire-Rescue public information officer Jason Evans. Crews responded to 29 calls of weather-related emergencies, only eight of them needing medical attention.

“Part of the reason this is probably the case is the proactive nature in which the city went about opening up the Grand Hall at Fair Park as a shelter for the homeless to get into ahead of the cold spell,” Evans said.

That shelter, as well as one at the Austin Street Center at 2929 Hickory St., are still in operation.

However, the city did see a spike in burst pipes. Dallas Fire-Rescue responded to 565 calls last weekend.

“Some of the things we try to encourage homeowners, to understand whenever the temperature drops like this is to first know where your cut off valves are for your house,” Evans said.

Another risk during a cold snap: carbon monoxide poising, Zavadsky said. Last year, MedStar treated 27 patients for carbon monoxide poisoning within the first two months of the year, six of the patients under 10 years old. So far this year, crews have responded to five calls.

“The fact that we responded to five this season is pretty much right on target, except we're only halfway through the month and there's more cold weather predicted,” Zavadsky said.

Both responders suggest residents should dress in layers that create proper insulation to help keep body heat in and take frequent breaks out of the cold and be able to recognize the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning such as headache, nausea, and vomiting.

“We've met 38 people who never thought that they would suffer from hypothermia, but they did anyway,” Zavadsky said. “So just plan ahead, make some good judgments.”

Zara was born in Croydon, England, and moved to Texas at eight years old. She grew up running track and field until her last year at the University of North Texas. She previously interned for D Magazine and has a strong passion for music history and art culture.