EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 24, 2013

Dangerous cold keeps region in its grip

By John Toole

---- — The arctic deep freeze settled over Southern New Hampshire and Merrimack Valley yesterday. The high temperature only reached the teens, but it felt much colder.

The National Weather Service issued an advisory warning of “dangerously cold wind chills” through 10 a.m. today that at times would feel like minus 17 in the area stretching across Southern New Hampshire and northeastern Massachusetts.

AtkinsonWeather.com’s Ryan Breton reported a noontime temperature of 14 degrees.

“That’s colder than many locations in Alaska – including Nome (16), Anchorage (28) and Juneau (33),” Breton posted on his website.

The state was weathering the cold.

“There haven’t been any huge issues,” state emergency management spokesman Jim Van Dongen said.

New Hampshire officials were monitoring the conditions, but no emergency shelters had opened, he said.

Utilities weren’t anticipating trouble.

“They have enough resources to keep going,” Van Dongen said.

Windham fire Chief Tom McPherson said there hadn’t been a need or any requests to open a warming shelter in town thus far.

“We are ready to do so if needed,” he said.

McPherson was urging a common sense approach for town residents.

“I would recommend limiting your time to be outside when all possible and if unable, to dress warm, and in layers,” the chief said.

Red Cross of New Hampshire spokeswoman Lisa Michaud seconded that advice.

“We are asking folks to think ahead, have generators, wear layered clothing, have their skin covered and limit their exposure to the cold,” Michaud said.

The Red Cross had not had to open shelters yet, she said.

The Salvation Army of Derry also was ready to help if needed.

“At this point, we haven’t had any issues,” Lt. Chris Williams said. “We are available to do a warming center if the need arose.”

Williams encouraged people to be safe if they must use electric space heaters.

Greater Derry Public Health Network coordinator Garrett Simonsen said none of the communities in the region had set up warming stations.

He was encouraging people to protect themselves from the cold.

“If they are going to be outside for an extended period of time, they should cover their hands, their ears and wear scarfs,” Simonsen said.

People also should be mindful of health warning signs such as uncontrolled shivering, confusion or drowsiness, he said.

Sonshine Soup Kitchen in Derry saw a slight increase in demand.

“I’m seeing an increase of about six new people over the week,” program director Christine Fudala said.

The cold had forced some homeless to be on the move.

“I do know a couple of people who left Derry to go to Manchester because we don’t have shelters,” Fudala said.

Family Promise of Greater Rockingham County, founded by volunteers from churches in the region, aims to do something about that starting in February, when it starts providing services to homeless families.

New Family Promise director Victoria McKinney-Vareschi said the weather is a threat to those families.

“This is extremely dangerous,” she said yesterday. “The chill factors are in the negative numbers.”

Police typically will try to get the homeless into shelters when they encounter them in these conditions, she said.

Shelters experience challenges in the winter, too, she said.

“This is the time of year that shelters are crowded,” Fudala said.

Pets were also a worry in the cold weather.

“They need to think of animals as they would themselves,” said Patricia Mack, Salem Animal Rescue League’s manager of development and media relations.

That means brief walks for the dog in the back yard, but no lengthy exposure, she said.

“Lengthy exposure to the cold can affect them in the same way as us,” Mack said. “Protect your animal as you would yourself.”

Be careful of the antifreeze around the car, too, because that can poison a pet attracted to a spill, Mack said.

There was one major traffic problem in New Hampshire.

The lift span on the Sarah Mildred Long Bridge on the Route 1 Bypass between Maine and Portsmouth became stuck about a foot above the roadway when workers raised it during a “cold weather lift.”

“There is some damage that needs to be fixed,” New Hampshire Department of Transportation spokesman William Boynton said.

It was uncertain how long repairs would take, he said.

The extended forecast for the region has daytime temperatures below freezing until Monday.