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Emergency services available today during extreme cold

A motorist jumps his car on a cold winter's day.
Dave Lucas

Stay out of the cold if you can. That's the message across the region today as temperatures have plummeted and sub-zero wind chills have been reported in the double-digits.
Lizz Hitt is Executive Director of The Homeless and Travelers Aid Society in Albany:

"It's very cold out today,"' said Hitt. "So it's what we call an extreme Code Blue. And that means it's less than 10 degrees. I know when I got in my car this morning, it said zero. So we don't want anyone outside today. Lots of warnings are going around on social media, about your pets, please make sure your pet's inside. We'd also encourage you to think about humans that are outside. So anyone that's currently unhoused on the street, in abandoned buildings, sleeping behind grocery stores, etc., please go to any local shelter. It doesn't matter where you are. There are shelters, which will take you in whether you're in Albany, Troy, Saratoga, Schenectady, every community has a plan, they have a place, it's warm, you can get something to eat. If you're listening to this, and you see someone, if you're at the grocery store, or at the gas station, or at the bus stop, please contact us and we will help you find someplace for that person to be."

For those weathering the cold indoors, Abigail Adams with the Red Cross Eastern New York Region says one concern is a spike in home fires.

"If you're using a space heater, you need to place it on a level, hard and non flammable surface, because there they can catch fire," Adams said. "And there was just a recent tragic fire in New York City because of a space heater, so we encourage everybody to monitor and keep children and pets also away from the space heaters. One other thing that's critical is to keep the your thermostat the same temperature during the day and the night. That will help keep pipes from freezing. And if you're going to go out to do shoveling, make sure that you're you're in good health and good shape. We don't want anything to happen to anybody. Please wear hats, warm boots, clothing, keep yourself protected from frostbite."

Hitt says several facilities are prepared to welcome the unhoused.

"We've got the City Mission in Schenectady, Saratoga, you've got Shelters of Saratoga, here in Albany interfaith partnership for the homeless,"Hitt said. "The Capital City Rescue mission in Troy, Joseph house. We've also got a van, it's called the outreach man that's run by an entity called Joseph’s House there on the street. There in that van, they're looking for people, they're trying to do everything they can to make sure the homeless do not freeze to death and/or suffer from some severe injury because of the cold. Please come inside."

Hitt says people in need can call the HATAS Homeless Hotline at 518-463-2124.

Meantime, the National Weather Service in Binghamton is forecasting 4 to 6 inches of snow in Utica, where a snow emergency was declared Monday night. Hannah Evans is a Storm Tracker 2 meteorologist for WKTV in Utica.

"We had some snow overnight. Sunday into Monday the heaviest of snow falling throughout the day yesterday," said Evans. "Utica itself didn't really get that much snow. We only got about two and a half inches. But areas around Utica, specifically like northwest of Utica got up to 23 inches of snow. So that was lake effect snow, we got a lot of that. So the areas that we're closer to Lake Ontario did get the most mass snow, some areas reaching two feet of snow. But yes, that was yesterday and then last night we did get another brief round of lake effects before it all came to an end this morning. It came to an end because there was an arctic front moving through, so that was coming in from the north. And that kind of pushed the snow down a little bit south."

Evans says that arctic cold is now brutalizing upstate New York, where, heading east toward Albany along the Mohawk Valley, many schools in Fulton, Montgomery and Schoharie counties delayed Tuesday morning's opening by two hours.

Evans said "It looks like the snow is not really heading towards Albany or anything. It doesn't look to be snowing right now on our radar."

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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