Some free advice for those in the Columbus area: Don’t put the heavy coat, gloves and cap away just yet; take care of the outside pets; make sure the exposed pipes are covered; and use common sense.
This cold snap that has sent temperatures well below freezing and caused emergency shelters to open will only intensify over the next few days. Tuesday morning the low reached 19 degrees and we could see lows in the teens again before this is done, said WRBL Chief Meteorologist Bob Jeswald.
“We have not seen this kind of extended cold since January 2014,” Jeswald said.
It freezing weather started Sunday morning, New Year’s Eve, when the low hit 32. Monday morning, the low was 25. After dropping to 19 on Tuesday morning, the low is forecast to be well below freezing for at least the next five days. Friday morning the temperatures could fall back into the high teens.
Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson has issued a winter weather advisory through Sunday.
The most immediate concern is for the area’s homeless population, said SafeHouse Ministries Executive Director Neil Richardson. SafeHouse has opened its emergency shelter at the former Rosehill United Methodist Church building at 2101 Hamilton Rd.
The shelter opened around-the-clock Monday morning at 5 a.m. and plans to stay open through Sunday afternoon, Richardson said. The shelter operates during normal hours, but stays open through the night in extreme conditions. Where many the area shelters have requirements to be housed, no one is turned away from SafeHouse during the bitter cold.
“We had more than 50 people stay Monday night,” Richardson said. “I think you will see that number rise throughout the week and people say, ‘Enough of this,’ and seek shelter.”
Someone donated a 40-inch television to SafeHouse over the weekend and those in the shelter spent New Year’s Day watching the two college football playoff games involving Georgia and Alabama.
SafeHouse has been operating the overnight shelter during extreme conditions for four years. This will be the longest extended period that the shelter has remained open during that time. It also marks the first time it has been open this winter.
Jeswald cautions animal owners to bring pets inside during this cold spurt.
“It really is better,” he said. “I know some animals, especially dogs with heavy coats, can withstand this, but for the most part animals should be inside or in an area where there is a 100- or 200-watt bulb that will provide some heat.”
Jeswald also has some advice for homeowners.
“During this cold, the bottom line is if you have exposed pipes at your house, they need to be covered,” Jeswald said.
It is not just the animals and the property that could get in trouble during the cold. Ken Ellison, a landscaper with Columbus nursery Bloomers Lawn and Garden said people should make sure they have taken care of outside plants.
“It would be smart to make sure that the plants are watered,” Ellison said. “In weather like this, water in a plant acts in the same way that antifreeze acts in a car. During prolonged cold, plants that are dry will suffer the most damage.”
Ellison recommends that people water plants during the warmest part of the day. He also issues a word of caution to those covering outside plants.
“I these conditions, the blankets don’t do much good,” he said. “And if you use plastic make sure you remove it during the day. You can create a greenhouse effect and do more harm than good.”