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Frigid weather helps fill Pa. drop-in shelter

February 06, 2007|by DON AINES

Single-digit temperatures accompanied by a wind chill factor below zero was filling up the Cold Weather Drop-In Shelter in Chambersburg, Pa., Monday night as people sought refuge from bone-chilling conditions.

The National Weather Service in State College, Pa., was calling for temperatures of about 1 degree this morning in Franklin County with the wind chill factor between -7 and -15 degrees. A wind chill advisory has been issued for much of the state.

At the Cold Weather Drop-In Shelter at 195 Loudon St., 14 men and four women sought shelter from the freezing conditions Sunday night, said Tom Newcomer, president of the shelter's executive committee. The shelter is set up for a total of 20 people, he said.

The shelter is normally open from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., but Newcomer said a volunteer stayed until 11 a.m. Monday because it was too cold to send some of the residents out. The volunteer then took them to The Salvation Army for lunch, he said.

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By about 7:30 p.m. Monday night, 19 people had come to the shelter, almost all men, said shelter manager Marcia LaBonte. On nights when more than 20 people show up, the shelter tries to find other places for them to stay, such as Candleheart in Fayetteville, Pa., the New Hope Shelter in Waynesboro, Pa., and the Franklin County Shelter for the Homeless in Chambersburg, she said.

Both the homeless shelter and Candleheart were full Monday night, LaBonte said.

IceFest benefits

The gleaming ice sculptures of Chambersburg's fifth annual IceFest will linger on a few days more because of the extreme cold, Downtown Chambersburg Inc. President Paul Cullinane said Monday.

"We're going to leave the ice out until the end of the week for the first time ever," Cullinane said. "My guess is we'll take them down Friday."

The forecast through the end of the week from the National Weather Service in State College, Pa., shows temperatures staying below the freezing mark. Last year, warm weather and rain took their toll on the sculptures.

"I'm very comfortable saying 10,000," Cullinane said when asked to estimate attendance for IceFest. Even as the mercury dipped Sunday and winds picked up, he said there was a steady stream of couples, families and individuals strolling Main Street to look at the ice.

Cullinane said people from West Virginia, Maryland, Washington, D.C., and other parts of Pennsylvania were among the visitors.

"It's something we feel very proud of. We were able to bring people downtown and benefit the businesses," he said.

While most came to look, two came to vandalize sculptures, borough police said. Two people were seen smashing ice sculptures at about 11 p.m. Saturday, police said.

A couple of smaller figures along Main Street appeared damaged and there was an unrecognizable pile of ice in a walkway off the street.

West Virginia wind

It was sunny in downtown Charles Town, W.Va., Monday afternoon, which could give a false sense of things if you were standing inside. One step outside, and the bone-chilling temperatures were made worse by a wind barreling down Washington Street, causing flags to whip against a flagpole at a local business.

Mary Clark of Harpers Ferry, W.Va., ventured out because she had to fax some papers for her car insurance.

"I'm trying to stay out of it," Clark said, adding that the weather had caused her no problems so far.

Oscar Reyes had his own way of dealing with the cold. It called for mind over body.

"(I) close my eyes and think about Jamaica," said Reyes, who works for the maintenance department for the City of Ranson.

As a worker for Ranson's maintenance department, Reyes had a tough job Monday: picking up the city's trash.

"It was tough. We looked like mummies," Reyes said.

Another woman bundled-up in a long black coat barely slowed down to talk about the weather.

"It's freezing out here. I can't stand it," said the woman as she scurried down the street.

Staff writer Dave McMillion contributed to this story.

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