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WNY prepares for dangerous cold

Posted at 7:00 PM, Dec 14, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-14 19:00:44-05

Homeless shelters and local school districts are both preparing for a cold blast over the next few days.  The 7 First Alert Weather Team is forecasting lows approaching zero degrees for Thursday and Friday.

That is concerning for some WNY schools.  West Seneca Central Schools look at a number of factors when cancelling school, including road conditions, the amount and timing of snowfall and temperatures.

"The essential question is one of safety for the children," said Superintendent Mark Crawford.

When it comes to temperature alone, West Seneca said a wind chill of 20 degrees below zero is an important threshold.

"When it's a minus 10 reading with wind chilld, the temperature is usually well above zero," Crawford explained.  "When you get to minus 20, the temperature is usually close to zero or below and you've got some wind--it can go to minus 35 as well."

Wednesday night is the second Code Blue of the season for the City of Buffalo (the first was on Tuesday).  Code Blue is called when the temperature overnight is expected to drop below 15 degrees.

Nadia Pizarro is chair of the Western New York Coalition for the Homeless.  She said five people died last year while staying outside overnight.

"They won't realize until it's too late," she said.  "Hypothermia sets in.  They get a warm rush and start peeling off layers of clothes."

There are three Code Blue shelters in Buffalo:

  • Matt Urban Hope Center at 385 Paderewski Drive
  • Harbor House at 241 Genesee Street
  • St. Luke's Mission of Mercy at 325 Walden Avenue

If you see someone out in the cold on a Code Blue night, the WNY Coalition for the Homeless asks you call 211 between 8 and 11 P.M. with the location.  They can send workers to invite the person to stay in the shelter and provide a ride.

"We try to encourage them to come in," Pizarro said.  "If they refuse, which is their right, we will give them whatever items necessary.  Things like below zero sleeping bags, coats, boots and gloves."

The WNY Coalition for the Homeless is always looking for donations of blankets, pillows and other cold weather items.  Those can be dropped off at the Matt Urban Hope Center.