BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Interim Baltimore City Health Commissioner Mary Beth Haller has issued a Code Blue Extreme Cold Alert for the fifth time this winter.
Temperatures are expected to drop into the single digits this week.
The alert began Tuesday night and will go until Friday, February 1.
"With dangerously cold temperatures and precipitation expected in Baltimore, I am issuing a Code Blue Extreme Cold declaration beginning Tuesday night through Friday morning. I encourage residents to stay indoors, especially those most vulnerable to cold," Haller said.
The Health Commissioner may declare a Code Blue Alert when temperatures are expected to drop down to 13 degrees or below as well as for any other conditions that present a threat to human life or the health of Baltimore citizens.
The total cold-related deaths this season jumped up to 17 on Wednesday, according to the Maryland Department of Health.
Interim Health Commissioner Haller reminds us, "extreme cold temperatures can permanently injure, or even kill. Please also consider checking on neighbors who you think may be at risk to ensure that they have heat and power, and take care to shelter pets appropriately."
When a Code Blue declaration is made, public messages are released to encourage citizens to take safety precautions as well as help those in need of finding shelter.
During the Code Blue season, which began Nov. 15, 2018 and lasts until March 15, 2019, city agencies work together to:
- Distribute meals to at-risk senior citizens
- Provide home weatherization services
- Help individuals apply for energy assistance
- Provide additional cold weather education and outreach efforts
There is also the lingering problem of the ice that's sticking to streets and sidewalks. Soon, that's going to be coupled with a second wave of winter weather that is bitterly cold.
Neighbors around Baltimore scraped away what's leftover from Tuesday's wintry weather, though the snow did not quite stick in a lot of places.
"There's backroads that are probably really bad, and the temperature, the temperature is not good. The cold is, I guess, what we have to worry about. All this is going to be frozen solid," said Amy Gerhart, a resident.
With the polar vortex settling in and threatening to plunge the state into more, possibly dangerous cold, the State Highway Administration already has a team on the road, checking on broken down and abandoned cars to make sure no one is left lingering on the side of a frigid street.
"We out here. We respond to anything and everything," said Rick Greenwell with SHA.
Greenwell says he's seen it all, enough to know that this kind of freeze can be a major threat, especially to older cars.
He said to throw a blanket and extra clothes into the trunk just in case to stay warm until he comes to the rescue.
"The car can stay on the shoulder. That can be replaced, but the people can't be replaced out here," Greenwell said.
Hospitals also usually see an uptick in cold-related injuries. So with this bitter blast, doctors' orders are to stay indoors.
"The best thing to do, if you can, is to stay inside. If you have to go outside, wear a lot of warm clothing. Bundle up, and stay warm, and then come back in when you can," said Dr. Helen Gordon, UM St. Joseph Medical Center.
She added if any body part starts to look blue or white, that's your warning sign to get inside.
During this season, the Mayor's Office of Human Services' Office of Homeless Services who also works with Baltimore's homeless shelter providers will extend shelter hours as well as provide more bed availability.
Some Cold Weather Tips From Baltimore's Health Department:
- Wear multiple layers of loose-fitting clothing.
- Always wear a head covering, like a hat and/or scarf, when outdoors.
- Drink plenty of fluids and avoid alcoholic beverages.
- Protect yourself against falls in icy or snowy conditions.
- Check on those who are most vulnerable, including children, the elderly and/or chronically ill.
- Provide appropriate shelter for domestic animals.
Additional Tips on How To Stay Safe During A Code Blue Alert:
- Keep space heaters and candles away from flammable materials, such as curtains, furniture and loose clothing.
- Check your carbon monoxide detector and make sure it's working.
- Do not use prohibited heat or power sources inside your home, such as stoves or generators. They may cause fire or carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Do not leave your car running in a closed space, such as a garage.
Residents are encouraged to contact 311 if a neighbor is without heat or power so that city agencies can assist them. Energy assistance may be available to those who need it.
For more information, individuals may contact their nearest Community Action Partnership (CAP) Center.
- Northern CAP Center (5225 York Road, 21212) – 410-396-6084
- Northwest CAP Center (3939 Reisterstown Road, 21215) – 443-984-1384
- Southern CAP Center (606 Cherry Hill Road, 21225) – 410-545-0900
- Southeast CAP Center (3411 Bank Street, 21224) – 410-545-6518
- Eastern CAP Center (1731 E. Chase Street, 21213) – 410-545-0136
For more information about Baltimore City's Code Blue Extreme Cold plan, visit: http://health.baltimorecity.gov/emergency-preparedness-response/code-blue
For other cold-related inquiries and service requests, or to find a nearby homeless shelter, residents can call 311 or 211.
This story was contributed by WJZ intern Anna Lee Flaherty.
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