HAMPTON ROADS, Va. (WAVY) – This week, an Artic blast has brought freezing temperatures, small flurries, and wind chills below 0 degrees. And as the mercury drops, people across Hampton Roads are bracing for the extreme cold.
With the temperature going down, attendance at homeless shelter is going up.
“We’re sleeping people in our lobby floor. We’re sleeping them in the dining room, we take down the dining room tables and chairs at night,” explained Linda Jones of the Union Mission in Norfolk.
Jones and other shelter leaders across the area prepared for an influx of people this week. She said during a cold snap, attendance usually goes up by about 10 percent, and that means the shelters rely more on the community for help.
“Blankets, warm clothing, socks, food, anything would be a great help to help us help the people who really need it the most,” Jones said.
TowneBank volunteers have passed out nearly 600 pairs of winter gloves to the homeless throughout the region. The Portsmouth Sheriff’s Office also passed out blankets on Thursday with the help of local fire departments.
In Virginia Beach, overnight shelters are available to the homeless between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m. Those who want to use this service are asked to check in at the lighthouse Center (825 18th Street) by 7 p.m.
The city of Portsmouth designated several warming centers, where people can get warm during a cold emergency. For a complete list with locations and times, click here.
James City County residents and visitors can get warm at the James City County Recreation Center, 5301 Longhill Rd., during normal operating hours: Mon.-Thurs. 6 a.m.-9 p.m., Fri. 6 a.m.-8 p.m., Sat. 8 a.m.-6 p.m., Sun.1-6 p.m. Call 757-259-4200 for more information.
The Community of Faith Mission is operating a winter nighttime sheltering program at local churches; more information can be found at www.cofm.info.
Several local schools announced morning delays because of the frigid temperatures. Click here for WAVY’s current list of closings and delays.
The cities of Suffolk and Norfolk both sent releases to WAVY.com, reminding residents to check their pipes and be prepared for the cold snap. WAVY.com spoke with a local plumber who said he received more than 150 calls for service in two days, during last year’s cold snap.
“Most of the time it’s something that was really exposed and could have been avoided,” explained Jeff Hux of Norfolk Plumbing.
Hux said the best advice he can give homeowners is to check the vents in their crawl space.
“The biggest thing I can recommend is to close the outside vents around your house,” he said. “A lot of people leave them open for ventilation during the summer and the wind whipping through there is really what freezes the pipes, not just the temperature but the wind in combination with that.”
Hux also recommends homeowners drip their faucets, and that if pipes do freeze, shut off water at the source. Otherwise, once the pipes thaw, your home could flood.
Every year, fire crews respond to homes where an attempt to stay warm turns dangerous.
“We’ll experience an increase with people firing up their fireplace or their space heaters or just their normal HVAC system hasn’t been serviced in a while and it can malfunction and spark a fire,” explained Capt. Scott Saunders of the Chesapeake Fire Department.
Saunders recommends keeping a three-foot clearance around all heat sources, only using a space heater that automatically turns off if tipped over, having your chimney inspected before lighting any fires, and never use kitchen appliances to stay warm.
The Suffolk Fire Prevention Bureau recommends the following home heating safety tips:
- Install smoke alarms in every bedroom, outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home. Interconnect all smoke alarms throughout the home so that when one sounds, they all sound. Test smoke alarms at least once a month.
- Be sure your home has both photoelectric and ionization smoke alarms or combination ionization and photoelectric alarms, also known as dual sensor smoke alarms.
- Practice your home fire escape drill.
- Have your chimney inspected each year by a qualified professional and cleaned if necessary.
- Use a sturdy fireplace screen.
- Allow ashes to cool before disposing. Dispose of ashes in a metal container.
- Space heaters need space. Keep all things that can burn, such as paper, bedding or furniture, at least 3 feet away from heating equipment.
- Turn portable heaters off when you go to bed or leave the room.
- Plug power cords only into outlets with sufficient capacity and never into an extension cord.
- Inspect for cracked or broken plugs or loose connections. Replace before using.
- Install and maintain a carbon monoxide alarm in a central location outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home.
- Never use an oven to heat your home.
If you have any additional questions, contact the Suffolk Fire Prevention Bureau at 757-514-4550.
We all know to take care of our pets and plants when it gets this cold, but we also have to look after our cars. It can zap critical components, such as the battery or starter, leaving you stranded.
AAA recommends the following things to make sure your car runs safely:
- Getting your battery checked by a professional to see if it’s time to buy a new one. Battery life drops significantly in the cold. Even at 32°, a battery is 35 percent weaker than normal.
- Check your gas level. If it’s low, the gasoline could freeze.
- If you have a car that’s been sitting for a while, take it out for a drive before the cold hits. Otherwise, the next time you go to drive it, you might find you have a dead battery.
- And any of those other little glitches – like if your car is stalling – only get worse when the weather is cold. So you have a little time still to get your car into the shop.