People urged to help vulnerable neighbors during deep freeze

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People urged to help vulnerable neighbors during deep freeze
People urged to help vulnerable neighbors during deep freeze

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) – The post-Christmas prolonged, dangerously cold weather across half the country has advocates for the homeless scrambling to get people off the streets and local officials urging residents to assist their elderly neighbors.

Residents from the Midwest to the Northeast were dealing with sub-freezing temperatures and wind chills, while those in the Pacific Northwest and northern Rockies were bracing for storms that forecasters warn can cause heavy mountain snow and freezing rain.

The cold is expected to continue through the holiday weekend and likely longer, according to the National Weather Service, prolonging a stretch of brutal weather blamed for vehicle crashes, emergency room visits and at least one death.

Wind chill advisories remained in place for many areas. Animal owners were urged to bring their pets indoors if possible or at least make sure they have sufficient warmth.

Forecasters warned people to be wary of hypothermia and frostbite from the arctic blast that has gripped a large swath from the Midwest to the Northeast, where the temperature, without the wind chill factored in, dipped to minus 32 (minus 35 Celsius) Thursday morning in Watertown, New York. Temperatures rose to minus 7 (minus 22 Celsius) early Friday morning.

Heavy snow is expected Friday in the Pacific Northwest, across the Cascade mountains and into the northern Rockies before gradually tapering off Saturday. As much as 2 to 3 feet of snow is possible in the highest terrain, while coastal regions were expected to see heavy rainfall.

About 30 crashes were reported on icy roadways Friday morning in Michigan, where below-freezing temperatures continue to envelop parts of the state.

A woman trying to maneuver her wheelchair on a cold, snowy night in Nebraska got a firetruck escort. Snow and construction items on the sidewalk forced her into a busy Omaha thoroughfare Tuesday. Firefighters returning to their station noticed her. They flipped on their lights and followed the woman until she reached her destination. She gave them a thumbs-up as they departed.

In South Dakota, an 83-year-old woman died from exposure to the cold. Police believe she crashed her car on a gravel road near the tiny rural town of Revillo then left the vehicle to look for help. They found her body in a ditch on Sunday.

Warming centers have been set up in some locations, including recreation centers 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 were 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 beverage, and informed of the dangers of extreme cold.

The Ohio Department of Aging 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 neighbors to make sure they’re warm enough and have their needed medications and 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 New Hampshire, the cold set a record for the day of minus 34 (minus 37 Celsius) atop the Northeast’s highest peak, Mount Washington.

In the Midwest, temperatures in Minneapolis aren’t expected to top zero (minus 18 Celsius) this weekend, and it likely will be in the teens (minus 11 Celsius to minus 7 Celsius) 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 forecaster Dan Borsum said, “but this one will get your attention.”

A woman braves temperatures in the teens as she makes her way to the National Museum of African American History and Culture on the National Mall, Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Joe Scharpf cross country skis on a trail after a fresh snowfall in the south chagrin reservation of the Cleveland Metroparks, Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017, in Moreland Hills, Ohio. Scharpf said he will ski about 6 miles on the trail. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
In this Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2017, photo, homeless men Sean Stuart, left, and Segundo Rivera walk on a street after spending the day at St. Francis House in Boston. With temperatures across Massachusetts not expected to rise above freezing for days, politicians and advocates for the homeless are particularly concerned about getting as many people as possible into shelters. Stuart and Rivera told the Boston Herald that 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. (Christopher Evans/The Boston Herald via AP)
The cold snap continues as a man walks on the pier along side a frozen section of the harbor at Fort Taber Park in the south end of New Bedford, Mass., on Friday, Dec. 29, 2017. (Peter Pereira /Standard Times via AP)
In this Dec. 28, 2017 photo, a sign tells the temperature at the Marlboro Fire Company, in Marlboro, N.J. Dangerously cold temperatures and significant snowfall are setting in across half the country and officials are urging people to assist the homeless and elderly. (Jerry Wolkowitz/The Asbury Park Press via AP)
In this Dec. 28, 2017 photo, Janine Popovich and Riley, of Keyport, walk in frigid temperatures along the Keyport promenade in Keyport, N.J. Dangerously cold temperatures and significant snowfall are setting in across half the country and officials are urging people to assist the homeless and elderly. (Jerry Wolkowitz/The Asbury Park Press via AP)
A pedestrian crosses the street as the temperature hovers in the single-digits, Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017, in downtown Boston. The National Weather Service said there’s the potential for record-breaking cold this week in New England. (AP Photo/Bill Sikes)
People walk past a blue lobster ice sculpture outside the New England Aquarium as the temperature hovers in the low teens, Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017, in Boston. The National Weather Service said there’s the potential for record-breaking cold this week in New England. (AP Photo/Bill Sikes)
Icicles hang from the fountain at Town Center in Virginia Beach, Va., on Thursday morning Dec. 28, 2017. Cold temperatures are expected through the week. (L. Todd Spencer/The Virginian-Pilot via AP)
As the weather turns colder, water along the edge of one of the many creeks in the Pungo section of in Virginia Beach, Va., begins to freeze, Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017. Cold temperatures are expected through next week. (L. Todd Spencer/The Virginian-Pilot via AP)
A boy has his face bundled against temperatures in the teens on the National Mall, Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Alexander Doepper of Hagen, Germany, helps his one year old son Jannis walk near the Washington Monument on the National Mall as they brave temperatures in the teens, Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Ana Gonzalez of New Haven, Conn., right, helps her sister Alejandrina Gonzalez, left, put on another scarf as they brave temperatures in the teens on the National Mall, Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Visitors to the Washington Monument on the National Mall brave temperatures in the teens, Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Ana Gonzalez of New Haven, Conn., right, helps her sister Alejandrina Gonzalez, left, put on another scarf as they brave temperatures in the teens on the National Mall, Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
People brave temperatures in the teens as they ride on an open air second level of a tourism bus as it makes its way down the National Mall, Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
A family braves temperatures in the teens as they make their way to the National Museum of African American History and Culture on the National Mall, Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
With temperatures in the single digits, Ray Levesque, mate of the crab/lobster boat Bradbill, makes his way across the deck covered in ice to tie off, after arriving in New Bedford, Mass., harbor on Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017, from a one day fishing voyage. Temperatures across Massachusetts are not expected to rise above freezing for days. (Peter Pereira/Standard Times via AP)
In this Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2017 photo, with temperatures in the low teens, ice begins to make its way across the waters of Lake Shawnee in Topeka, Kan. Freezing temperatures and below-zero wind chills also socked much of the northern United States on Wednesday. (Chris Neal/The Topeka Capital-Journal via AP)
In this Tuesday, Dec. 26, 2017 photo, the surf from Lake Erie pounds the shore in Dunkirk, N.Y., driven by cold winds with lake effect snow. The National Weather Service said that strong westerly winds over Lake Erie picked up moisture, developed into snow and converged with opposing winds, dumping snow in a band along the shore from Ohio to New York. (Damian Sebouhian/The Observer via AP)
In this Tuesday, Dec. 26, 2017 photo, a man uses a snow blower to dig out after heavy snow fell in Dunkirk, N.Y. The National Weather Service said that strong westerly winds over Lake Erie picked up moisture, developed into snow and converged with opposing winds, dumping snow in a band along the shore from Ohio to New York. (Damian Sebouhian /The Observer via AP)
Kelly Richards, left, and Lisa Rippe, jog around Lake Harriet in the sub-zero temps Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2017, in Minneapolis. Richards, originally from the Twin Cities but who now lives in Texas and was visiting for the holidays, remarked to nearby walkers that the weather was great. (David Joles/Star Tribune via AP)
Logan Rogers pushes his bike along East Third Street in Erie, Pa., Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2017. Freezing temperatures and below-zero wind chills socked much of the northern United States on Wednesday, and the snow-hardened city of Erie, dug out from a record snowfall. (Jack Hanrahan/Erie Times-News via AP)
Chelse Volgyes clears snow from her car in Erie, Pa., Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2017. Freezing temperatures and below-zero wind chills socked much of the northern United States on Wednesday, and the snow-hardened city of Erie, dug out from a record snowfall. (Jack Hanrahan/Erie Times-News via AP)
In this Tuesday, Dec. 26, 2017 photo, a truck stopped at the top of a hill after heavy snow fell in Cassadaga, N.Y. The National Weather Service said that strong westerly winds over Lake Erie picked up moisture, developed into snow and converged with opposing winds, dumping snow in a band along the shore from Ohio to New York. (Greg Bacon/The Observer via AP)
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