People urged to help the most vulnerable as US enters the deep freeze
The prolonged, dangerously cold weather that has gripped half of America has advocates for the homeless scrambling to get people off the streets and local officials urging residents to assist their elderly neighbours.
Forecasters warned people to be wary of hypothermia and frostbite from the arctic blast that has swept down across the Midwest and Northeast.
In those regions the average temperature, without the wind chill factored in, dipped to minus-35 degrees Celsius (32 degrees Fahrenheit) on Thursday morning in Watertown, New York. Temperatures rose to minus-22 degrees (minus-7F) early on Friday.
Warming centres were set up in some locations, including recreation centres across Cincinnati. Boston’s Pine Street Inn sent a van with outreach workers around to persuade people to spend the night inside, but some said they prefer the streets.
Segundo Rivera and Sean Stuart told the Boston Herald they’re not comfortable spending the night in a shelter.
“We’ve lived out here so long it’s like honestly, this is comfortable for us,” Rivera said.
A shelter spokeswoman said that if people don’t want to go to a shelter, they’re given blankets, warm clothing and a hot drink, and informed of the dangers of extreme cold.
The Ohio Department of Ageing said older people are at increased risk from such severe cold, from medication side effects to falling risks.
The department encouraged people to check on family members, friends and neighbours to make sure they’re warm enough and have the medications they need, as well as sufficient food and water.
On Thursday, cold weather records were set from Arkansas to Maine, and the freezing air will linger through the weekend, reaching as far south as Texas and the Florida Panhandle.
In the Midwest, temperatures in Minneapolis are not expected to top minus-18 degrees (zero Fahrenheit) this weekend, and it likely will be in between minus-11 to minus-7 degrees (minus-12 to minus-19) when the ball drops on New Year’s Eve in New York City.
A winter storm warning was in effect for much of Montana, calling for significant snowfall followed by dangerously cold temperatures as 2017 comes to an end.
“People like to think of themselves as being prepared for the weather and things like that,” Billings, Montana forecaster Dan Borsum said, “but this one will get your attention.”