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Bundle Up: Temperatures Plunge Below Freezing, Code Blue In Effect

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Temperatures will only feel like the teens today as dangerous cold grips the area, prompting those who have to go outside to bundle up with hats, gloves, scarves and layers.

How are people dealing with the chilling air?

"Three shirts, two leggings under my jeans and I'm still cold and I got the flu," said Michelle Stewart of New York City.

With time left for holiday shopping dwindling fast, some had unfinished gift lists that could not wait despite their discomfort, reports CBS2's Meg Baker.

"Lot of Xbox games, some technology without doing any spoiler alerts," said mom Jackie Skwirut of Scotch Plains as she shopped for her children.

"I'm not a winter person," said Maryann Lozak of Plainfield, N.J. "My dog doesn't like to go out either. I have a pit bull and she has no hair."

WATCH: CBS2's Elise Finch With The Latest Weather Forecast 

The bitter blast follows yesterday's fast-moving snow squalls that caught many off guard. If you blinked, you might have missed them.

"It's nice on the trees, but when you're maneuvering and driving through ice and snow on the roads, and it's kind of breezy out there, not fun," said Ralph Kobelman, of Cranford Vanilla Bean Creamery.

SNOW SQUALL: Watch as the snow squall rolls in over the Hudson River. How was the storm by you? Share your photos and...

Posted by CBS New York on Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Just ask the drivers in Plainville, Connecticut, where highways were barely visible. Roads were also messy in Hawthorn, New Jersey.

In Central Pennsylvania, at least one person was killed and nearly 40 others were injured during a massive pileup on Interstate 80.

Web Extras: CBS New York's Winter Survival Guide | Weather Center

Ice was the major concern in New York City. Police said one person was hit in the face by a falling icicle on West 58th Street, prompting officers to close off several blocks in Midtown.

"You would think that will the skyscrapers they're putting up, that that would've been taken into consideration," Upper East Side resident Pamela Fernandez said.

Cyclist Daniel Cammerman died after losing control of his bike on a patch of ice on East 96th Street. The Mount Sinai physician was hit by a school bus that was trying to pass him.

City officials have issued a code blue weather emergency, urging New Yorkers to call 311 to help anyone on the streets or report any heat outages.

The New York City Housing Authority also activated its situation room and said it has 62 mobile boilers on hand. It can be reached by calling 718-707-7771 or using the MyNYCHA app.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the Department of Transportation, Thruway Authority, State Police, Department of Environmental Conservation and Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation are all at the ready, as well.

Code Blue

When cold temperatures reach freezing or lower, wind chill below 0 degrees, or the area is hit by ice storms, freezing rain or more than 6 inches of snow, New York City triggers a "Code Blue" to make sure anyone in need of assistance has the shelter they need.

According to, the following help is made more available for the homeless:

    • Shelters: During a Code Blue, homeless adults can access any shelter location for single individuals.
      Beds are available system-wide to accommodate anyone brought in by outreach teams or walk-ins.
    • Drop-in centers: All drop-in centers are open 24 hours a day when Code Blue procedures are in effect, taking in as many as people as possible for the duration of inclement weather. Drop-in staff also can make arrangements for homeless individuals at other citywide facilities.
    • Safe havens and stabilization beds: Chronically homeless individuals may be transported to these low-threshold housing options, where they may go directly from the street to a bed.
    • New Yorkers should call 911 if they see someone in need of medical assistance, and 311 to have a HOME-STAT outreach team engage a homeless individual about going to a shelter and receiving homelessness services.

Heading Outside

The Red Cross recommends…

    • Cover your mouth to protect your lungs from severely cold air. Avoid taking deep breaths; minimize talking.
    • Watch for signs of hypothermia and frostbite.
    • Keep dry. Change wet clothing frequently to prevent a loss of body heat. Wet clothing loses much of its insulating value and transmits heat rapidly away from the body.
    • Stretch before you go out. If you go out to shovel snow, do a few stretching exercises to warm up your body. This will reduce your chances of muscle injury.
    • Avoid overexertion, such as shoveling heavy snow, pushing a vehicle, or walking in deep snow. The strain from the cold and the hard labor may cause a heart attack. Sweating could lead to a chill and hypothermia.
    • Walk carefully on snowy, icy sidewalks. Slips and falls occur frequently in winter weather, resulting in painful and sometimes disabling injuries.

If you must go out during a winter storm, use public transportation if possible. About 70 percent of winter deaths related to ice and snow occur in automobiles.

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