As forecasters warn that the Mother Nature is about to lose her mind, school officials are reminding parents that it's time to prepare their children for winter weather.
Up to a foot of snow could fall in Billings by Thursday, and temperatures that peaked at a delightful 70-plus degrees Tuesday will plunge below freezing overnight and stay there for several days.
Superintendent Greg Upham sent out a newsletter Monday warning of the cold weather, reminding parents not to leave students alone at bus stops and to dress in cold-weather gear. He also said that buses may run late, and advised planning for extra travel time for those traveling to or from school on their own.
"Please be safe as we enter this winter season," he wrote.
On Tuesday, he said so far the forecast doesn't look like it would prompt a school closure. In a follow up newsletter, he also said that the district doesn't anticipate using alternate bus routes.
For years, closing school in Billings was like waiting for the Great Pumpkin to appear. It just didn't happen, at least for a quarter-century.
Then, in 2015, record snow closed schools across Yellowstone County. For each year since, snow, ice or dangerous cold have closed schools for a day.
Here are some tips from health experts to help keep kids safe this winter:
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- Dress infants and kids warmly for outdoor activities. Several thin layers will keep them dry and warm. Clothing for children should include a coat, warm socks, boots, gloves or mittens and a hat.
- Older babies and young children should dress in one more layer of clothing than an adult would wear in the same conditions.
- Hypothermia develops when a child's temperature falls below normal due to exposure to cold, making children shiver, become lethargic and clumsy, and slur their speech.
- If you suspect your child is hypothermic, call 911. Until help arrives, take the child indoors, remove any wet clothing and wrap them in blankets or warm clothes.
- Frostbite happens when the skin and outer tissues become frozen. This condition tends to happen on extremities like the fingers, toes, ears and the nose. They may become pale, gray and blistered. At the same time, the child may complain that her skin burns or has become numb.
- If frostbite occurs, bring the child indoors and place the frostbitten parts of her body in warm water of about 104° Fahrenheit. Do not rub the frozen areas. After a few minutes, dry and cover them with clothing or blankets. If the numbness continues for more than a few minutes, call a doctor.
The forecast has been updated for the winter storm expected to hit Billings. It could leave a foot of snow accumulated on the ground by Thursday.