Over 500 homeless people were picked up by hypothermia vans in D.C. Monday night as the coldest temperatures of the season moved into the area.
The District activated its cold weather emergency plan for the first time this winter on Monday night. The plan aims to protect residents from life-threatening illness and injury associated with severe cold weather.
City officials say the hypothermia hotline received over 400 calls about homeless people in need of help; 543 people were picked up and taken to area shelters. Twenty-seven of those picked up were disabled.
The city also opened several warming centers.
By Tuesday morning, wind chills were in the single digits across the D.C. area. Storm Team4 meteorologist Chuck Bell says the piercing wind will gradually decrease by the afternoon, but temperatures will remain chilly.
Tuesday's high will struggle to reach the mid 30s, and wind chills will be in the 20s for much of the afternoon.
Temperatures will be back in the teens by Wednesday morning.
Here's are some helpful tips to help you cope with this dangerously cold weather at home, in your car or when caring for your pets:
AROUND YOUR HOME
- Stay indoors if possible. If you must go outdoors, officials urge you dress warmly and wear loose-fitting, layered, lightweight clothing. Wear a scarf over your mouth to protect your lungs.
- Watch for signs of hypothermia, including uncontrollable shivering, weak pulse, disorientation, incoherence and drowsiness, and frostbite, including gray, white or yellow skin discoloration, numbness and waxy feeling skin.
- To prevent frozen pipes, State Farm suggests letting your hot and cold faucets drip overnight and open cabinet doors to allow heat to get to uninsulated pipes under sinks on exterior walls.
- Disconnect garden hoses and, if practical, use an indoor valve to shut off and drain water from pipes leading to outside faucets.
- If you are going away for an extended period of time, be sure to maintain adequate heat inside your home at no lower than 55 degrees.
- Do not place a space heater within three feet of anything combustible.
- Program your local utility contact information into your cell phone now, before you need them.
Important Utility Numbers include:
Baltimore Gas and Electric (BG&E): 1-877-778-2222 or 1-800-685-0123
SMECO: 1-877-747-6326 or 1-888-440-3311
Washington Gas: 1-800-752-7520
Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC): 1-800-828-4002
KEEPING YOUR CAR SAFE AND RUNNING
- If your car battery is three years old or older, it is more likely to fail as temperatures drops, according to AAA. Never attempt to charge or jump-start a battery that is frozen, as it may rupture or explode.
- Never warm up a vehicle in an enclosed area, such as a garage.
- Make certain your tires are properly inflated.
- Keep your gas tank at least half full to avoid gas line freeze-up.
- Wintry weather can contribute to the deterioration of your windshield wipers. Worn blades streak and impair vision, critical during winter months. AAA says wiper blades should be replaced every year.
- Keep your washer fluid topped-off with winter formula fluid so it won’t freeze. Many of your car’s fluids should be checked once a month.
KEEPING YOUR PET(S) SAFE
- Keep your pets inside. Dogs and cats left outside can freeze, get injured or become lost.
- If there are outdoor cats in your area, bang on the hood of your car before starting the engine to give them a chance to escape.
- Never leave your pet inside a car unattended.
HELPING THE HOMELESS
- Be on the lookout for homeless individuals, who could get hypothermia as temperatures dip into the teens overnight. If you see someone in the D.C. area who needs shelter or warmer clothing, call the following numbers:
- The District - 1-800-535-7252 or 311
- Arlington County, Va. - 703-527-4077
- Prince George's County, Md. - 888-731-0999
- Maryland Crisis Hotline - 301-662-2255
- Montgomery County, Md. - 240-777-4000
- Fairfax County - 703-691-2131 (non-emergency police number)