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Frigid weather lingers

Fort Wayne-area residents, brace yourself. More bitterly cold weather is on the way.

High temperatures will struggle to get out of single digits today, said meteorologists at the National Weather Service’s northern Indiana office near Syracuse. Nighttime temperatures will hover near zero.

The weather service continued a wind chill advisory for 21 northern and central Indiana counties and six northwestern Ohio counties through 11 a.m. today.

With winds of 5-6 mph, the low temperature late Tuesday and early today was expected to feel like minus 15 degrees at times – a level that can make frostbite of uncovered skin start to set in within 30 minutes, said Megan Dodson, weather service meteorologist.

Tuesday’s high of 9 set a record for lowest maximum temperature for the date, according to the National Weather Service. (Dec. 26 last year? A record high of 60.)

Today’s high is not expected to rise much above 10 degrees, she said. And residents shouldn’t look for a break anytime soon, said Tom Kine, meteorologist with AccuWeather in State College, Pennsylvania.

“This is a seven- to 10-day period of extremely cold weather,” he said Tuesday morning. Daytime highs will be around 10, and lows will remain near zero through at least Tuesday, he said.

A weak weather system that moves across northern Indiana on Thursday afternoon might bring light snow to some areas through Friday, he added.

John Perlich, spokesman for Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry, said a plan for helping people get out of the cold has gone into its second tier of services, instituted when the temperature, including the wind chill, reaches 10 degrees.

Two secondary overnight shelters may be called into action by the lead agency, the Rescue Mission, he said.

Just Neighbors Interfaith Homeless Network will provide overnight stays for homeless families with children as space allows. The Salvation Army will serve as a backup for overnight stays for men, women and children.

The mission at 301 W. Superior St. is where people needing shelter should go first, according to the plan. People can also call 426-7437. The mission allows men, women and children to stay during the day, but only men may stay at night. The mission will provide transportation to other shelters.

When the temperature reaches 10 degrees, the mission also can request that Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation’s backup warming centers be opened during the day. But that had not happened by 3 p.m. Tuesday, Perlich said.

A representative of the Rescue Mission did not return a call seeking information Tuesday afternoon.

Sally Segerson, a founder of Street Reach for the Homeless, Fort Wayne, said she was out Christmas night to assist people affected by the cold. She said many do not know they need to go to the Rescue Mission first, or else have gotten conflicting information.

She also said many people who have homes but may be without heat do not know they can receive emergency housing by calling the mission.

Residents should check on neighbors and loved ones to “make sure they’re in a warm environment,” Perlich said.

“We’re really in our first extended cold stretch of the winter season,” he said.

Dodson said residents should take precautions by dressing in layers of warm clothing and wearing a hat and gloves when going outdoors.

After this week, we have more of the same for Monday and Tuesday, Dodson said.

“We’ll still have cold air in place,” she said. But winds are expected to remain light, blunting wind chills, she said.

Monday’s New Year’s Day holiday, with a predicted high of 9 degrees and low of minus 1, will likely be among the coldest on record, Kine said.

“We’ve only had three (New Year’s) days when the temperature did not make it out of single digits, and we’ve got a shot at that,” he said. “Our coldest New Year’s Day was in 1928, when the high was 6 and the low minus 13.”

New Year’s Eve won’t be shorts weather either, with a low expected to be minus 1, he said.

Hoosiers in the northern part of Indiana can thank their neighbors in Canada for the prolonged cold snap, Kine added.

“I think they thought it might make a great Christmas present,” he said with a laugh. “You might want them to take it back. But I don’t think it’s returnable.”

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