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Weather is frightful

December 21, 2004|by TAMELA BAKER

tammyb@herald-mail.com

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Baby, it's been cold outside.

But relief is on the way.

Monday's low was 7 degrees at 5:28 a.m., according to Hagerstown weather observer Greg Keefer's Web site at i4weather.net. It was the lowest recorded temperature since Feb. 3, when the mercury dipped to 3 degrees.

The wind chill made the morning seem even colder, factoring in at a low of minus-19 at about 7:30 a.m.

By Monday afternoon, the temperature had warmed to a balmy 21 in Hagerstown. AccuWeather meteorologist Gerald Mohler promised, however, that today will be better.

"It can't get any colder, so it's gotta get warmer," he said.

Temperatures Monday night were expected to bottom out at about 12 or 13 degrees, he said, but a warming trend will bring a high today in the upper 30s, and on Wednesday, the highs will reach the upper 40s.

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In preparation for Monday's chilly weather, maintenance staff at Washington County's public schools had adjusted boilers to get the heat going, spokeswoman Carol Mowen said.

At Pangborn Elementary, a boiler malfunction caused problems in the main building, she said. The boiler was repaired and the school stayed open, with kindergarten and first-grade students grouped in the school's cafeteria and second- and third-graders meeting in the gym until their classrooms warmed up, Mowen said. Fourth and fifth grades, which meet in portable classrooms, were unaffected.

Nearly all the students had been moved into classrooms by around noon, she said.

Mowen said school officials determined it would be safer to keep the students in school, where they had supervision and could be fed lunch, than to try to send them home.

Some heat issues remained in the art room, office area and a few west wing classrooms because of ruptured pipes, she said. Rod Turnbough, director of facilities management for the school system, "will be staying with it until it is resolved," she said.

Some other schools had isolated heat issues, she said, including Clear Spring High School and Clear Spring Middle School, where school officials already were dealing with heat regulation concerns before Monday's icy blast.

Hagerstown's Cold Weather Shelter had 50 guests Sunday night, which has been about average for the past week, said REACH Executive Director Terri Baker. REACH, which stands for Religious Effort to Assist and Care for the Homeless, runs the shelter in cooperation with local churches.

Baker said wetter, cooler weather in the past week has swelled the number of people seeking shelter from about 30 to about 50 in the last week.

She said REACH needs sturdy army cots because the deteriorating condition of the organization's beds are causing them to break.

The Hagerstown Church of the Brethren on South Mulberry Street is hosting the shelter through next Sunday morning. The following week, the shelter will move to St. John's Episcopal Church on South Prospect Street.

By then, the warming trend will be over.

Mohler said to expect rain Wednesday night and into Thursday, with highs remaining in the 40s before temperatures drop in time for the holiday weekend.

But if you're dreaming of a white Christmas, don't get your hopes up too high.

"Right now, it looks cold and dry for Christmas," Mohler said.

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