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Baby it’s cold outside

By Staff | Jan 13, 2014

Record cold temperatures this week not only in the local area, but around the state and country have shattered records and caused a plethora of problems.

Shepherdstown saw lows below zero Monday evening and Tuesday with windchills falling in the negatives. Many residents faced icy road conditions, frozen water pipes and the burden of securing shelter for outdoor animals as the cold blast descended.

While Police Chief David Ransom shared that his office did not receive any specific calls Monday evening into Tuesday, the coldest stint of the polar hit, calls were made to the county sheriff to report instances of animals left outdoors, allegedly unattended.

Local resident Andrea Hines contacted police about one such animal and found that the law does not offer much protection.

Sheriff Pete Dougherty has stated, “Our job is to enforce the law, not to make the law.” He went on to explain that having outdoor dogs is not against the law. The law states that as long as animals are provided shelter, food and water, they are okay. Dougherty shared that his office encouraged people to provide extra bedding for outdoor animals in the cold temperatures, but they were not able to do more than that.

Four-legged friends were not the only concern this week. Shelters were open specifically to house homeless individuals who otherwise have little resources to avoid freezing temperatures.

Due to the extreme cold weather, the Jefferson County Health Department partnered with Asbury United Methodist Church in Charles Town, the American Red Cross and the Eastern Panhandle Medical Reserve Corps to open a warming center. This center will be open for those with inadequate shelter that cannot provide protection from the extreme cold. The shelter was opened from Monday through Wednesday morning.

Schools around the state were closed due to the expected wind chill temperatures. For the first time, all 55 counties shut the doors on classrooms due to inclement weather. The threat of frostbite and hypothermia had health officials offering information on prevention.

According to information shared by the health department, “at wind chills of 20 to 30 below, frostbite can occur in 30 minutes or less if skin is not protected. With prolonged exposure to cold, our bodies may not have the energy to maintain adequate heat. This condition is known as hypothermia and is extremely dangerous, particularly to infants and the elderly.”

In addition to potential health issues, icy road conditions had motorists facing driving challenges. Accidents had major and minor roadways closed throughout the early part of the week as vehicles were not able to secure traction on icy spots.

Many faced the threat and the reality of frozen water pipes and some saw limited power outages as ice accumulated on power lines and tree branches that subsequently fell onto lines.

A warming trend is expected through the latter part of the week, heading into the weekend when temperatures are to reach the upper 50s. Extended forecasts show that the Panhandle should not face another arctic dip in the coming weeks.