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Hagerstown's cold temperatures keep shelters full

REACH and the Salvation Army both had a slight overflow Tuesday night

January 23, 2013|By CALEB CALHOUN | caleb.calhoun@herald-mail.com
  • REACH Caregivers Shelter Executive Director Jodie Ostoich says cold temperatures have pushed the shelter to full capapcity and the organization is allowing some people to sleep on the floor.
By Joe Crocetta, Staff Photographer

This week’s frigid weather has pushed REACH Caregivers Shelter to full capacity, and the organization has been letting people sleep on the floor, Executive Director Jodie Ostoich said Wednesday.

“At this point we don’t have beds to give out to people, but when we see snaps and spells like this we allow for overflow,” Ostoich said.

She said there is a plan among the shelters in the county that allows for “overflow” if the temperature reaches 32 degrees or if sleet or freezing rain falls.

The temperature in Hagerstown dipped to 8.9 degrees at 6:18 a.m. Wednesday, and Wednesday’s high was 23.2 degrees at 2:14 p.m., according to Hagerstown weather observer Greg Keefer’s website at i4weather.net.

Temperatures will not get back to normal for this time of year until early next week, HMTV 6 meteorologist Brittany Beggs said Wednesday.

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The REACH homeless shelter, which usually takes up to 56 people, made room for 60 Tuesday night, Ostoich said.

“We allow for people to sleep on the floor so that they are out of the elements,” she said. “We try to keep it at six (people), but we do work closely with the other shelters to allow them to take folks when we hit that overflow point.”

Salvation Army Social Services Director Laura Barger said that the organization reaches full capacity with 28 people but had a small overflow with 29 Tuesday night.

“We put a lady on the couch (Tuesday night) because we didn’t have any beds,” Barger said. “People can’t be out in this kind of weather.”

Barger said the shelter has two couches.

“If we have to we’ll let people sleep on the floor,” she said. “We’re only supposed to take so many people, though.”

The REACH shelter, which is open from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., also operates a day program from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., providing about 16 hours of shelter from the cold weather every day.

Ostoich said that during the eight other hours when the shelter’s residents are responsible for their own activities, it can provide them with clothing materials they could use out in the cold.

“We are extremely fortunate to have huge community support with donations of items,” she said. “We have those items here, that we are willing to share with people that need them. All they have to do is come in and ask.”

The wind chill reached minus 1 degree in Hagerstown at around 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, and wind speed got as high as 25 miles per hour, according to Keefer’s website.

Firefighters also have to worry about potential problems in weather this cold, Hagerstown Fire Department Truck 1 Firefighter Rick Bolinsky said.

“We try to keep all the water we have from freezing up,” he said. “We’ll also have to get the push brooms out after an accident to clean up anything that poses a hazard to the roadway without wetting it.”

According to the AccuWeather forecast on the HMTV6 weather website at www.herald-mail.com/hmtv6/weather/, the temperature is not expected to reach 30 degrees again until Sunday in Hagerstown, with snow possible Friday.

It’s still unclear exactly how much snow will fall Friday.

The AccuWeather forecast called for a “little snow” Friday but National Weather Service officials in Sterling, Va., said one to three inches could fall. It looks like the accumulation might be closer to an inch but meteorologists will have to keep a close eye on the system to get a better idea later what will happen, NWS meteorologist Brian Lasorsa said Wednesday night.

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