Extreme Cold or Heat

Extreme cold or heat is prolonged periods (a week or more) of extreme heat or cold, creating potential threats to public health, property damage, or infrastructure failure.

  • Extreme heat is defined as temperatures of 89° or higher for at least 48 hours.
  • Half of the people who died from the cold are over 60 years old. About 20% of cold-related deaths happen inside the home.
  • Heat and cold can cause damage to roads and railroad tracks, water, gas and sewer pipes, and electrical lines and transformers.
  • In Lansing, extreme cold is defined as single digit temperatures, or -20° wind chill, for a period of 48 hours or more.


Extreme temperatures affect vulnerable individuals more than the general public. The elderly, those with chronic health conditions, and people with disabilities may not be able to physically bear extreme cold or heat without ill effects. People living in poverty may not be able to sufficiently heat or cool their homes. Some homeless people may not be willing to seek out available shelters, or may not be aware the danger of being exposed to extreme temperatures.

Some medications may make people more vulnerable to heat-related illness.


In the tri-county area, the It’s a Cool Thing to Do program is activated whenever heat and humidity create a threat to health.

In 2014 a warming center program was added to the "It’s a Cool Thing to Do" program. Warming Centers may be opened when weather gets extremely cold, but they will usually only be opened if there is a reason that people can’t stay warm at home, like a power outage.