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Nassau officials urge residents to take precautions in extreme cold

Gurcan Turan pumps gas at a Husco gas

Gurcan Turan pumps gas at a Husco gas station on Montauk Highway on Monday. Credit: James Carbone

Nassau residents without heat or shelter run the risk of exposure to frostbite or life-threatening hypothermia during this extreme cold and should seekhousing at a county warming center, officials said Monday.

With temperatures Monday morning in the single digits — and wind gusts making it feel well below zero — county officials are urging residents to look out for one another, particularly the elderly or the homeless.

"Exposure to this frigid cold can cause serious and sometimes life threatening health effects," Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said at a news conference at Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow.

The county has warming centers open at Cantiague Park Ice Rink in Hicksville, the Nassau County Aquatic Center in Eisenhower Park, the Mitchel Fieldhouse in Garden City, Grant Park in Hewlett and Christopher Morley Park in Roslyn.

"If you see someone who does not have a place to stay tonight and will be exposed to the elements for a prolonged period of time  . . . please notify the authorities," said NUMC chairman George Tsunis. "Please be proactive."

Dr. Anthony Boutin, NUMC's chief medical officer, said the hospital's emergency room has already treated several patients Monday for hypothermia. 

"It can take only a few minutes outside to develop symptoms," said Boutin who encouraged residents to stay indoors and, if forced to go outside, to take shifts and wear multiple layers.

County Health Commissioner Larry Eisenstein said dangers from the cold can arise in unexpected ways. 

For example, despite the frigid temperatures, infants should not sleep in a crib with a blanket, which could become a choking hazard, he said. Older children, Eisenstein said, often come in from the cold but suffer serious burns because their fingers are numb and can't immediately detect extreme heat.

And residents are discouraged from using ovens or portable grills for heat due to the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Members of a Baldwin family were treated at NUMC Monday for carbon monoxide and minor burns after their space heater caught fire, Boutin said.

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