Meteorologists at the National Weather Service in Peachtree City were calling for temperatures to drop into the single digits early this morning with an expected low of 7 degrees. A weather advisory called for wind chills as low as minus-10 degrees.
That can be life-threatening news to Cobb’s homeless population. Each year, 700 homeless people die from hypothermia in the U.S., according to the National Coalition for the Homeless.
Residents of MUST Ministries’ Elizabeth Inn shelter are typically asked to leave during the day to work or seek employment, but they were allowed to remain inside Monday, said Kaye Cagle, spokeswoman for MUST.
Both MUST and The Extension, operated by United Way in Marietta, were opening emergency shelters Monday.
MUST Ministries provides a place to sleep for women and children with 10 beds. They are picked up from the Elizabeth Inn campus off U.S. 41 and are bused to Mt. Bethel United Methodist Church for dinner where they sleep on cots in the recreation center.
The Extension has room for 25 men at its building on Church Street in Marietta.
Both shelters provide a place to sleep and free breakfast and open when temperatures drop below 32 degrees or when weather is otherwise life threatening.
A warm place to sleep
Protip Biswas, vice president of homelessness for United Way, said Monday night’s temperatures were unusually cold for metro Atlanta and hoped the homeless would come indoors.
“Everyone needs a warm place, even if they have to sleep on a chair,” Biswas said.
He said across metro Atlanta there won’t be enough warm beds for the homeless population, but both MUST and The Extension say they’ve never had to turn somebody away.
“We understand the urgency, we just hope the person on the street understands it as well,” Biswas said.
J.J. Bremner, director of recovery services at The Extension, called the potential impact of the weather tragic.
“This weather kills people and we always have to have that compassion to open up whatever facilities we have in the community to avoid that tragedy,” Bremner said.
The Extension got its start as an emergency winter shelter and became a recovery center after noticing the same clients returning each season.
It’s the same story for the scaled-down winter shelter The Extension still operates. The same faces appear each year. Those that need shelter are able to find help, Bremner and Cagle said.
“There’s an incredible telegraph in the woods,” Bremner said. “Everybody knows it because most of them end up down at MUST for lunches.”
“Those that live in the tent communities know that we’re open and available for them,” she said.
No major weather problems reported
Monday travel was smooth across most of Cobb despite the threat of black ice and below freezing temperatures. Police reported no major accidents.
Cobb crews got started at 3:30 a.m. Monday spreading a salt and sand mix on heavily traveled bridges and roads.
“We are responding to icy-patch condition reports, but the wind has been our friend drying out the precipitation from (Sunday) evening,” said Faye DiMassimo, director of the Cobb Department of Transportation.
Dan Conn, director of public works for Marietta, had received no reports of icy roads by early Monday afternoon.
“The plan for now is (to) leave the spreaders loaded and ready, with on-call personnel responding tonight if needed,” Conn said.
Freezing temperatures can cause pipes to burst, said Bob Lewis, director of the Marietta Board of Lights and Water.
But most of the impact won’t be seen until temperatures rise and pipes begin to thaw.
“It’s when the water starts to melt, then water starts dripping, and that’s how you see where these things are,” Lewis said.
His biggest concern Monday was the potential for heavy winds to knock down trees taking down power lines, but no major outages had been reported by Monday afternoon.
Though supermarkets in the Midwest couldn’t keep shelves stocked last week because of a winter storm, Cobb’s grocery stores didn’t see a large increase in shopping, said Glynn Jenkins, spokesman for Kroger.
Freezing temperatures had been predicted early on, Jenkins said, giving people time to purchase needed groceries before the cold snap hit.
“First of all, we know some schools are closed but we also know it’s the first day back to work for a lot of people as well,” Jenkins said. “Also based on that, based on the cold temps people aren’t venturing out.”