Record cold hits midstate

alopez@macon.comJanuary 6, 2014 

A temperature of 11 degrees set a new record low for Macon early Tuesday, breaking the prior record of 14 degrees set in 1924. Wind chills below zero are possible and a Wind Chill Advisory is posted for all of Middle Georgia until 1 p.m.

Stanley Beard walked down Macon’s Broadway on Monday afternoon in a thin, hooded sweat shirt and sweat pants. He was killing time in the frigid cold until 4 p.m., when he would have access to his shelter bed at the Salvation Army.

He had been walking around since 9 a.m. he said.

Beard, 34, has been unemployed for a year and a half and is homeless. Sunday night was his first night in a shelter, he said.

“It’s cold outside,” Beard said. “I had to find somewhere to go.”

Beard spent his second night at the shelter as a wicked cold front continued to move through the state, bringing freezing temperatures with forecast lows in the teens or possibly single digits.

A wind chill advisory will be in effect until 1 p.m. Tuesday, as wind chill readings overnight were predicted to reach five degrees below zero Fahrenheit, according to the National Weather Service.

Low temperatures, extremes for the midstate, forced some school districts to cancel classes for a second consecutive day, made the roads more dangerous and challenged government and nonprofit agencies to provide increased services.

School district officials in counties across the midstate met with emergency management agencies and decided on school closures. Many classes in the area were canceled for Tuesday, but Houston County schools were not closing.

Transportation is a concern, as the medical experts at Mid Georgia Ambulance recommend motorists drive 5 to 10 mph under the speed limit to make sure they stay in control of their vehicles, the agency stated in a news release.

In case of any frozen water on some roads, Macon-Bibb County public works crews are standing by 24 hours a day until Wednesday, ready to throw a salt and gravel mix on roads.

The crews would use the salt to melt any ice accumulation and would use gravel to add traction for automobiles, said Steve Pettis, assistant director of public works in charge of streets.

“Black ice is frozen moisture, and those (areas) are hard to identify,” Pettis said. “The worst-case scenario right now will be if the bridges start icing over.”

Pettis is asking motorists to call 478-803-0490 to report any freezing on roads.

No one left out in the cold

At the Red Cross of Central Georgia, volunteers prepared for the increased chance of fire emergencies due to faulty heating in homes.

“People that may not have adequate heating to handle this level of cold may use alternative sources of heating, and that may result in home fires,” said Donna Lee, the Red Cross’ district program manager.

Lee said the Red Cross responds wherever families are affected by fire emergencies, but it also is working with the Macon-Bibb County Emergency Management Agency and the Salvation Army to make sure no one is left out in the bitter weather.

As of Monday afternoon, the Salvation Army homeless shelter at 1955 Broadway had not reached capacity, though its facilities for men were getting close, said Naomi Ladsen, social services director there.

But if the shelter runs out of beds, the Emergency Management Agency is standing by to take any late arrivals.

“We will transfer those people to a shelter that will house them for heat and a place to sleep and something to eat until probably noon on Wednesday,” said Donald Druitt, Emergency Management Agency director.

And at the Macon-Bibb County Animal Welfare shelter Monday afternoon, some of the smaller dogs, including four puppies, were taken to Furever After Rescue, a warmer facility. Other animals that stayed behind were moved to warmer parts of the city-county shelter.

“We’re laying down extra blankets for everybody,” said Christy Riley, a kennel attendant.

To contact writer Andres David Lopez, call 744-4382.

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