The Madison Courier's weather station listed Friday's early-morning temperature right around 9 degrees. Coupled with a bitter wind and some overnight snow, it was downright cold in the Courierarea this morning.

But don't expect to find much relief from Mother Nature over the next few days.

According to the National Weather Service, today's temperature is set to reach 37 degrees, which is quite balmy compared to what comes next.

Sunday: Forecast lists a 100 percent chance of a rain/snow mix, followed by an overnight low of -3 degrees.

Monday: There's a small chance of snow, but the high for the day is -1 degree. The low that day is -10 degrees.

Tuesday: A high of 4 degrees, coupled with a low of 1 degree.

Wednesday: A 50 percent chance of snow with temperatures in the 20s.

Thursday: A 40 percent chance of a rain/snow mix with temperatures in the 30s.

Bottom line: Stock up on coffee and hot chocolate.

But those aren't the only steps to take when the weather takes an extreme turn toward the cold.

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. Proper ventilation can also be helpful if you use kerosene laterns.

• To avoid bursting water pipes, leave a small stream of water - about the size of a pencil - running from your faucets. Especially those on an exterior wall.

• 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. Bundle up and stay safe out there.