New Castle News

January 3, 2014

Photo Gallery, Story: Record-breaking cold expected next week

Nancy Lowry
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Although it’s only a dozen days into winter, record-breaking cold weather is heading this way.

According to the National Weather Service in Pittsburgh, the anticipated low temperature of 4 to 6 degrees — with wind chill as low as minus-16 — expected last night could feel downright balmy by Monday and Tuesday.

The actual temperature could fall to minus-15 degrees Monday night, warming to a high of zero and a low that could fall to minus-8 on Tuesday night. When considering wind chill values, temperatures could feel like minus-40 on Monday and minus-25 on Tuesday.

Warmer temperatures in the mid-30s could be seen by the end of next week.

“It’s been a long time since we’ve recorded temperatures this low,” said meteorologist Bill Modzelewski at the weather station at Pittsburgh International Airport. “The previous record low for Jan. 6 is minus-5 and that was recorded in 1884.”

Modzelewski said sustained negative temperatures haven’t been seen locally in quite a while.

“The last time local temperatures fell below zero was 2011,” Modzelewski said.

Dangerously cold temperatures in the forecast are causing local agencies that deal with homeless people to mobilize.

The Rev. Kevin Green, director of the City Rescue Mission at 319 S. Croton Ave., is preparing to welcome additional clients as extreme cold weather comes.

“We had 54 men this week but we’ll make room for everyone who wants to come in,” Green said. His capacity is 60 men at the mission, but he said the facility has been known to house more.

“We offer heat, food, water, warm clothing, whatever we have when really cold weather hits,” he said. “We encourage everyone to come to the mission.”

Knowing some will not respond, Green offered advice for anyone who remains exposed to the elements.

“Keep moving. Don’t sit still in the extreme cold.”

Green said he knows that some local homeless people take shelter in ATM booths, hospital lobbies and vacant houses on the city’s East and South sides.

“They’re a hardy bunch,” he said. Some choose to remain outside, even in extreme weather, “But when it’s real cold, some will come in.”

As temperatures fall, Green said, the mission will provide hats and gloves to those who need them.

“All we can say is they know that we are here and they are welcome to come in.”

Angela Hagberg, director of The Next Step Center of Patches Place at 217 N. Mill St., said homeless people face dire conditions during extreme weather.

“There are no cold centers locally where they can stay,” she said, “only the City Rescue Mission for men, Covenant House, operated by the mission, for women and families or the Lawrence County Crisis Shelter, if there is abuse.”

Additional missions are available in Youngstown and Butler, she added. “Really, New Castle offers few options.”

Hagberg said some are hesitant to accept the mission’s hospitality. “They have rules — no alcohol. But they never turn anyone away.”

She said her organization, which deals primarily with people with mental health issues, can provide hats and gloves. “We no longer provide tents, which have been confiscated.”

The organization had provided shelters for the city’s former Tent City residents. Many of those people, she noted, now have permanent places to live, including apartments and the mission. “They’re managing.”

Hagberg noted that many social service agencies — facing budgetary reductions — are struggling to provide services.

A veteran, she also is active with veterans organizations.

“It’s surprising how many homeless veterans are in this area,” she said. A Stand Down conducted in October, she noted, resulted in 50 more people, previously unknown to service agencies.

“These are homeless people who have issues — mental health, drugs, other problems — that prevent them from going home” she said.

However, she added, during extreme cold, some families make exceptions.