Chris Schulz Published

Winter Storm Brings Dangerous Conditions To The Region

This woman in Chicago was well protected from the cold on Monday.

Record cold and winter weather will move into the region over the next several days. Communities across the state are preparing to help the most vulnerable.

National Weather Service Meteorologist Fred McMullen said the state is in for a trifecta of wind, snow, and a flash freeze as temperatures drop more than 30 degrees into the single digits overnight into Friday.

“There’s a concern for very icy conditions to develop very quickly, right around seven to nine [degrees] in the morning,” McMullen said.

He said wind has the potential to not only bring dangerous wind chills to the region, but also damage.

“Friday through Saturday night, we’re going to see wind chills not climb above zero until probably Christmas afternoon. So you’re looking at a period of, depends on where you live, 48 to 60 hours of sub zero wind chills consistently,” McMullen said. “We’re looking at wind sustained between 20 and 30 miles an hour with gusts of 45 to 55 miles an hour. We’re worried about downed trees, large branches and then also scattered power outages as well.”

Rev. Zac Morton of the First Presbyterian Church in Morgantown works with the mutual aid group Morgantown RAMP, a grassroots volunteer organization advocating for shelter in the community.

“[Mutual aid] it’s just a vocabulary word for a really simple concept of people pooling their time, energy and resources together to meet a need that’s noticed in the community,” he said. “We have kind of a collective responsibility to care for folks who are having kind of the hardest time that often fall through the cracks.”

Morton said the organization has distributed resources like tents to the unhoused population, but Morton said the extreme cold is dangerous.

“It’s the question of once you get cold, can you warm up again?” Morton said. “That’s really the main situation that we’re trying to avoid is people who get stuck in a position, in an environment where they are cold and can’t get warm again, and you get hypothermic, and I mean there’s a whole host of things that can happen.”

Morton said RAMP works with Morgantown’s warming shelter at Hazel’s House of Hope, which has already had more than 30 community members using it consistently. RAMP is also using grant money from United Way to ensure everyone has a place to get out of the cold.

“If people don’t fit particularly well into that collective warming shelter, for instance, we have seen quite a few families that come through, they’re better served by a hotel option,” Morton said. “Or people who have a health or medical condition, where they need to be kind of isolated to be able to take care of themselves, we have the hotel as a secondary option.”

Call or text 211 for help locating a warming shelter in your community.