(The Ohio River froze at Point State Park, Pittsburgh, in January 2014. Photo by Matt Niemi via Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 2.0.)
(This story will be updated with new information as it becomes available)
Local school districts are canceling classes and McKeesport is opening a warming shelter as a so-called "polar vortex" swoops into the Mon-Yough area this week.
McKeesport Area, Clairton, East Allegheny and South Allegheny school districts have canceled all classes and school-related activities for students on Wednesday and Thursday, according to spokespersons, while Norwin School District will be closed Wednesday.
Penn State Greater Allegheny also will be closed Wednesday.
The National Weather Service in Moon Twp. has issued a wind-chill advisory from 5 a.m. Wednesday through 5 p.m. Thursday. Forecasters said that with air temperatures dropping to near 0 degrees on Wednesday afternoon, and winds reaching 30 mph, the temperatures will feel like 20 below 0.
At those temperatures, frostbite and hypothermia are very real dangers, the weather service said, and people going outdoors should dress in layers --- including a hat and gloves.
The cold snap is expected to last through Friday. Forecasters are predicting a high of 37 on Saturday.
Warming shelters will be opened
For people who lack heat or need a warm place to stay, McKeesport will open a warming shelter at 8 a.m. Wednesday at the Palisades ballroom, corner of Fifth Avenue and Water Street, Downtown. The shelter will remain available through 12 noon Friday, said a spokeswoman for McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko.
Anyone who needs access to the shelter should call the McKeesport police warden's desk at (412) 675-5015, or visit the desk at the police station, rear of 201 Lysle Blvd.
A warming center will be opened on Wednesday and Thursday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Turtle Creek Borough Building, 125 Monroeville Ave., Mayor Kelley Kelley announced on Facebook.
North Huntingdon Twp. also will make shelters available, as needed, North Huntingdon EMS/Rescue announced via Facebook. Residents who need emergency shelter should call North Huntingdon Twp. emergency dispatch at (724) 863-8800.
Pittsburgh's Department of Parks and Recreation, Citiparks, announced that four "healthy active living centers" will stay open as warming shelters until 9 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, including a center at 745 Greenfield Ave. in Greenfield.
An Allegheny County spokeswoman said the Department of Emergency Services does not currently have plans to open warming centers, but that officials were monitoring conditions and would react in case in the event of a power outage or some other incident impacting multiple residents.
Allegheny County courts closed on Wednesday
All Allegheny County departments and offices are expected to be open on Wednesday and Thursday, except for court offices.
Allegheny County President Judge Kim Berkeley Clark ordered the closure for Wednesday of all divisions of the county Court of Common Pleas, Allegheny County magisterial district courts and Pittsburgh Municipal Court. Arraignment court will remain open, a spokeswoman said.
The Boyce Park Ski Slopes and the North Park and South Park ice rinks also will be closed on Wednesday.
As for the school closings, McKeesport Area employees are expected to report on Wednesday for an "Act 80" day, and the Feb. 18 Presidents' Day holiday has now been canceled, the district said.
Clairton School District will have "make-up" days Feb. 8 and April 24, the district said.
Originally published January 29, 2019.