Expert tips for protecting yourself and your belongings in the cold – Des Moines Register

When cool breezes start to turn to frigid gusts, it’s important to bundle up and be prepared. In addition to digging out your puffy coat or going out and getting a new, cozy scarf, there is more to do to keep you and your belongings safe during periods of frigid temperatures.
Experts have offered their recommendations on how Iowans can best protect their pets, their plants, their pipes, their cars and themselves for cooler temperatures on the horizon. 
It’s important to consider how chilly temperatures can impact the health of each member of the family, including pets. 
Joe Stafford, director of animal control service for the Animal Rescue League of Iowa, said pet owners should consider their animal’s size, breed and age when deciding how long to let their pets outside.
“A malamute wants the cooler temperatures where a short-hair, single-coated, smaller breed, like a Chihuahua, could have a bigger risk and threat in these temperatures,” he said. 
For those who prefer to keep their furry friends outdoors, Stafford recommended pet owners provide adequate housing to protect them from harsh weather conditions. Organizations such as the ARL may be able to provide some outdoor shelters for those who cannot afford them, Stafford said. 
Those with questions or concerns about their animal’s well-being or winter readiness can contact the ARL or the Des Moines Police Department’s non-emergency number at 515-283-4811, Stafford said.
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If temperatures are dropping near or below freezing, it might be time to bring your plants inside.
While some vegetation fares OK in the cold, Kimberly James, a production horticulturist with the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden, said many plants, including any foliage and house plants, do not like temperatures below 50 degrees. 
If some plants do not fit indoors, James recommends keeping them safe in a garage, where temperatures are likely to be a few degrees warmer than outside. Otherwise, gardeners should cover their plants, making sure the sheet or other material used does not come into contact with the plant’s leaves. 
To prepare trees, shrubs and perennials to endure the cold, James recommends making sure they are well-watered before temperatures drop below freezing levels. Mulch can also help to keep the plants in good shape, she said. 
Pipe-freezing is an annual battle for Midwesterners this time of year. The concern grows as temperatures shrink for an extended period of time, said Kelly Laurie, a customer service employee and dispatcher at Holt Plumbing and Heating in West Des Moines. 
Here are a few tips to prevent the mess — and cost — of frozen pipes:
Colder weather can often cause inconvenient and costly damage to your car. To avoid dead batteries and other problems with your vehicle, take the following precautions: 
If you have to drive on slick roads during an Iowa winter, here are tips on how to travel safely, courtesy of the Iowa Department of Transportation:
Winter driving tips:How to keep safe while driving on slick Iowa roads
To protect yourself against cold temperatures, the National Weather Service suggests wearing layers of loose-fitting, lightweight clothing with tightly woven and water repellant outer garments. Make sure to trap in body heat with a hat and cover your mouth to protect your lungs from the bitter cold, NWS added. 
To prevent frostbite, the Mayo Clinic recommends people do the following: 
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Francesca Block is a breaking news reporter at the Des Moines Register. Reach her at or on Twitter at @francescablock3.