The temperature at The Madison Courier's weather station was 8 degrees at 5 a.m. today.

Local schools put a two-hour delay in place to protect children from the bitter cold.

Our early morning coffee stop found more people than usual filling their cups.

Simply put ... it was cold this morning.

And, cold temperatures might stick around for a few days. We might not be looking at sub-zero temperatures, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't take precautions.

It's important to know that it takes only a few minutes in bitterly cold weather to suffer dangerous effects.

Here are a few things to consider:

• Do you know elderly or disabled people? Call them several times a day to make sure they are safe and comfortable. With the cost of heating fuel, some folks are turning down the heat. That could be dangerous for an older person. And, make sure they have plenty of food since getting out is difficult.

• If you are using a portable space heater, make sure it is mechanically sound, and don't set it near flammable items such as blankets or place it in an area where it might be tipped over.

• To avoid bursting water pipes, leave a small stream of water - about the size of a pencil - running from one faucet.

• If you must drive, be sure your car's gas tank is filled. That will help prevent gas line freeze, and if you should get stuck, you can keep the motor running to stay warm. If you are unfamiliar with the area, never leave your car to seek help. People become disoriented when their body temperature drops.

• Be sure to keep emergency equipment in your car, including a warm blanket. If you own a cell phone, keep it with you.

• Don't forget your pets. They should be outdoors for only a short time, and make sure their water is not frozen.

During the winter, common sense is the best guide to endure severe weather conditions. Taking a few precautions could mean the difference between life and death. This is no time to take risks.