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Local News

Panhandle Shivers In Pre-Winter Cold Blast

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  Any doubts that winter is approaching will be dispelled over the next few days and the colder weather is hanging around for the next week or so.

Temperatures across the Midwest and Plains are in the teens and 20s, with reports of snowfall amounts ranging from 10 to 16 inches. Steve Miller at the National Weather Service in Mobile says the chill is heading south later today and tonight.

“We’re pretty much expecting temperatures in the low to mid 20s in parts of inland southeast Mississippi and southwest Alabama,” said Miller. “And it’s expected to get colder Friday night for the Florida Panhandle, clear down to the coast.”

A freeze warning will be issued early Friday morning for Escambia County, with a freeze watch taking effect for the rest of the region early Saturday. Numerous organizations are preparing to help those most affected by the cold, including Pensacola’s Waterfront Rescue Mission, where Jessica Howell is a development associate.

“We have mats that we can bring out,” Howell said. “If the community would like to be involves, we could definitely take more blankets, jackets, hat, gloves – anything you would need for cold weather. And non-perishable food. We’re expecting to feed a few more people.”

Waterfront has 163 permanent beds. Thanks to mats and other materials, the shelter was able to accommodate about 190 people during last January’s winter storm. The mission also runs a separate shelter for women and children. Meanwhile, the American Red Cross’ northwest Florida chapter is also going through some preparations for the chilly weather. President Jerry Kindle says much of their work is behind the scenes.

“In our area, there are a lot of places that provide cold-weather sheltering, but what we do is we prepare to open our shelters if there’s a mass power outage, and partner with the folks who do other sheltering,” said Kindle. “If they’re short on cots or blankets we provide that.”

Tips for staying safe in cold weather include: wearing layers of lightweight clothing to stay warm; bringing pets and delicate plants indoors, running a trickle of water through faucets to avoid freezing, and making sure heating systems are working properly.

It also helps to know the symptoms of hypothermia, or low body temperature. Those include confusion, dizziness, exhaustion and severe shivering. Frostbite symptoms are numbness, flushed skin discoloration, or waxy-feeling skin. But Kindle says the good news is all of that and other cold weather problems are easily avoidable.

“Pay attention to what’s going on,” said Kindle. “Watch the weather, (and) don’t get caught by a surprise. Cold weather is one of those things that are forecasted (sic) very well. So just review the preparedness stuff, and if you have any questions just give us (Red Cross) at call.”

Thursday’s highs did not get out of the 50s, and were made to feel even colder with 10-20 mile an hour winds, gusting up to 30. The same forecast is on tap for Friday. Steve Miller at the National Weather Service says after a brief warm up this weekend, more of the same is on the way.

More information on cold weather safety and how to make donations can be found at redcross.org, and waterfrontrescuemission.org.