Cold front threatens homeless, elderly
By Tamara Barak, Bay City News Service
January 12, 2007
With a freeze watch hovering over the Bay Area, local and state
officials are taking measures to protect the most vulnerable citizens.
The National Weather Service reported that an arctic air mass
will move across the Bay Area, setting the stage for very cold
weather and several hours of freezing temperatures in the interior
Friday overnight will be even colder than last night. The weather
service predicts the coldest valleys will see temperatures drop
into the teens and normally mild cities by the ocean and bay will
experience freezing temperatures.
The weather service has issued a freeze watch.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Wednesday directed state agencies
to activate the extreme temperature protocols established last
year to protect the homeless, disabled, elderly and poor. Eleven
National Guard armories -- including those in Gilroy, Sunnyvale
and Santa Cruz -- have been opened as emergency shelters.
Local homeless shelters, like EHC LifeBuilders' Boccardo Reception
Center in San Jose, are also operating at overflow capacity throughout
"Cold temperatures like those predicted for this week can
be life-threatening,'' EHC LifeBuilders spokeswoman Hilary Barroga
said, adding that the shelter is "pulling out all stops to
keep everyone safe and warm'' during the cold snap.
San Jose's Community Homeless Alliance Ministry estimates that
7,645 homeless people live in Santa Clara County. Last year, 48
people died on the streets -- a number that is greater than the
last four years, the ministry reports.
San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom announced Wednesday that the
city would expand its homeless outreach efforts through the weekend.
The Department of Public Health has arranged for two Mobile Assistance
Patrol vans to provide help and shuttle people to homeless shelters
during the night. Shelters in the Mission, Tenderloin and Bayview
neighborhoods will offer drop-in services throughout the day.
California Department of Community Services and Development Director
Lloyd Throne stressed that there are many low-cost or no-cost
ways people can prepare for the extreme cold.
He recommended wearing layers of loose-fitting clothes to trap
body heat, opening the drapes to let the sun heat the home during
the day and closing them at night for insulation, closing off
unused rooms and the vents that heat them, and sitting near the
interior walls instead of external walls and windows.
He warned against heating homes in unsafe ways.
"To save money, some families heat their household in a
way that increases the risk of fire or carbon monoxide poisoning.
There are community-based programs that can help low income individuals
and families maintain and safe and healthy home,'' Throne said.
In Salinas, seven people were hospitalized with carbon monoxide
poisoning on Christmas Day after a man brought a barbecue inside.
In Contra Costa and Marin counties, water district officials
urged residents to check their outdoor water pipes to protect
them from freezing.
"If temperatures drop into the 20s as predicted, unprotected
outdoor water pipes are likely to freeze,'' Contra Costa Water
District spokeswoman Patty Friesen warned.
Residents can protect their pipes by insulating them with commercial
pipe-wrap available at garden and hardware stores, or simply wrapping
and taping them with cloth or heavy paper.
If the pipes do freeze, the Marin Municipal Water District recommends
slowly pouring lukewarm water on them so they thaw gradually.
Pouring hot water on frozen pipes can cause them to burst.
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