Centers offer warmth as temperatures plummet

January 5, 2014
Srirupa Chatterjee holds her hood as she crosses a street Sunday in St. Louis. - Associated Press

With temperatures expected to dip into the single digits and wind chill making it drop to negative numbers, residents in Washington and Greene counties could find themselves in need of shelter today and Tuesday.

The National Weather Service is predicting the high temperature Tuesday to hover around zero with wind chills as low as minus 35.

That prompted both Washington and Greene counties to jump into action and open warming shelters for those in need.

Members of Clarksville Christian Church met after their Sunday service to come up with a game plan to help those who find themselves in need of a place to get warm.

“We will be opening the church at noon on Monday and keeping it open 24 hours a day for as long as we need to for people to have some place to go to get warm,” said church Elder Bob Dobbins.

Dobbins said the church will have blankets and hopefully some cots and blowup mattresses available for anyone who needs a place to rest.

“If the power goes out, we are making arrangements to have a generator. There are a couple of nursing homes in Clarksville, so if the power goes out, they would need to get their people somewhere warm in a hurry,” Dobbins said. “A lot of our elderly people live in trailers. If the power goes out, so does the heat tape around their pipes (leaving them without hot water).

“All are welcome, even if anybody just needs a hot meal or wants to come for some fellowship,” he added. “We’re gonna have food, and we’re gonna have warmth.”

Ruth Enci, who coordinates the Carmichaels Activity Center as a shelter during emergencies, said the center will be open during its regular operating hours from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. for anyone who needs to get in out of the cold.

Enci received word from Greene County Emergency Services Friday to be prepared in case there is a need to open the shelter for a longer period of time in the event of power outages.

Enci said Waynesburg Community Center at 1505 Morris St. will also be open during its regular hours for those in need of warmth. The Carmichaels Activity Center is located at 100 Nemacolin Road.

Washington County’s Department of Public Safety announced it is opening numerous shelters at senior centers in Bentleyville, Beth Center in Vestaburg, Burgettstown, Canonsburg, Claysville, Cross Creek, McDonald, Thomas Campbell Center in Washington and the Washington Senior Center. Bentleyville and North Strabane fire halls will also be open both days.

Columbia Gas offered several tips to protect homes during the chill.

The company advised against using appliances such as stoves, ovens and outdoor grills as heat sources. It also suggested turning off any space heaters when leaving a room and before going to bed. Flammable materials such as paper, clothing, bedding, curtains and rugs should be kept far from the space heaters.

Homeowners can protect their pipes by keeping a trickle of water at times to make sure lines do not freeze. It also advised to open the kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warm air from the home to circulate around the plumbing.

Meanwhile, Greene County Humane Society is urging residents to make accommodations for outdoor pets when temperatures are at or below freezing.

“The community should know that outdoor pets cannot withstand freezing temperatures. Animals have been known to die from exposure and for their own protection, they should be brought indoors immediately,” said Kathy Hecker, humane investigations officer for Animal Friends.

According to Hecker, animals left unattended when temperatures drop below 32 degrees are at risk for hypothermia and death. In fact, puppies, elderly dogs, those who suffer from illness and small or short haired breeds should only be outside long enough to relieve themselves in these temperatures, she said. Domesticated pets can suffer from frostbite in a matter of minutes on feet, ears and tails, Hecker noted.

Signs of hypothermia include: weak pulse, dilated pupils, decreased heart rate, extreme shivering, pale or blue mucus membranes, stupor and unconsciousness.

As snow and ice melting agents may be used during the cold snap, pet owners also need to be aware of possible exposure to their pets. These substances should be wiped off a pet’s feet with a wet towel to avoid irritation of the paw pads or mouth, if they try to lick it off.

Cats and other small animals are known to seek warmth in the engine area of parked cars. Animal Friends suggests banging on the hood before starting your engine to scare any away that may have sought harbor from the cold. As feral or outdoor cats also need protection from the cold, straw serves as the best insulation because blankets, towels and pillows can get wet and freeze.

Animal Friends also suggests pet owners routinely check their outdoor pet’s water dish to be sure the water is fresh and unfrozen. It advises against using metal bowls as a pet’s tongue can stick and freeze to the metal. Plastic bowls are preferred.

For more information, call Clarksville Christian Church, 724-377-2406; Carmichaels Activity Center, 724-966-2290; or Waynesburg Community Center, 724-627-6366.

Mike Jones has been a news reporter since 2005, covering crime, state and municipal government, education and energy. In addition to working at the Observer-Reporter, he also has spent time at the Charleston (W.Va.) Daily Mail and He holds a journalism degree from West Virginia University.

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Tara Kinsell started her career in journalism with the National Geographic Insider Magazine and the Gaithersburg Gazette Newspaper in Montgomery County, Md. Tara has written and photographed sports, features and news stories for the Herald Standard, Greene County Messenger and Albert Gallatin Weekly. She holds degrees in journalism and graphic design from Waynesburg College, now Waynesburg University, and the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, respectively.

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