Bitter Cold Prompts Shelter Announcements, School Closings

By Staff Reports | Posted in: News

(National Weather Service graphic)

McKeesport Area, Clairton, East Allegheny and South Allegheny schools are closed on Friday as bitterly cold temperatures descend on the Mon-Yough region.

The districts, along with Serra Catholic High School and Mary of Nazareth Catholic School, announced closures on Thursday night, though staff in McKeesport Area will be required to report for a so-called "Act 80" in-service day.

According to the National Weather Service in Moon Twp., the Mon-Yough area will be spared the worst of the blizzard that is bearing down on the New York City area. McKeesport can expect "little or no snow accumulation" over the next few days.

But the winds, and the wind chill, are a different story. The weather service has predicted a temperature of 0 degrees Fahrenheit in McKeesport at 6 a.m. Friday, with winds between 13 and 26 mph that will make the temperature feel like -18 degrees Fahrenheit.

Allegheny County spokeswoman Amie Downs said that an emergency warming shelter will be available at the Clairton Municipal Building, 551 Ravensburg Blvd. Residents who need emergency shelter should call 9-1-1 and ask the Clairton police to let them in.

County public works crews will be using liquid calcium chloride in addition to salt to treat icy roads, Downs said. Salt loses its effectiveness as temperatures drop below 10 degrees Fahrenheit.

A winter shelter for homeless men is located in downtown Pittsburgh at the Smithfield United Church of Christ, 620 Smithfield St., Downs said. Homeless women who need shelter should call (412) 498-0908.

Frostbite --- the freezing of skin --- can occur within 30 minutes at those temperatures, a spokesperson for the Allegheny County Health Department said.

People who must go outside should cover as much of their skin as possible, including their cheeks, ears, fingers, nose and toes.

To treat frostbite, cover the frozen area to protect it from further injury and provide extra clothing or blankets, the health department said. Frozen areas should be gently rewarmed through immersion in warm --- not hot --- water.

In severe cases, victims should get emergency medical treatment as soon as possible.

The severe cold also puts people at risk of hypothermia, which occurs when someone's temperature drops below 95 degrees instead of the usual healthy 98.6 degrees, the health department said.

Several layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing are better than one layer of heavy clothing. Outer garments should be tightly woven and water repellent.

Signs of frostbite include loss of feeling in the skin and a white or pale appearance. Symptoms of hypothermia include uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness and exhaustion.

Originally published January 04, 2018.

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