As frigid winds blow in, Hillsdale and its surrounding areas bundle up to face temperatures reaching 40 degrees below zero, according to the National Weather Service.
“This cold is pretty extreme,” Geoffrey Heidelberger, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said. “These are numbers we haven’t seen in a few decades.”
In efforts to provide safety from the dangerous outdoors both Share the Warmth of Hillsdale County and the Salvation Army in Hillsdale opened its doors for extended hours.
Penny Myers, executive director of Share the Warmth of Hillsdale County, said that the overnight-shelter extended their hours Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday to provide a warm space for people who may be going to different warming centers throughout the day.
“We try to work in coalition with the Drop-In Center,” she said.
Share the Warmth of Hillsdale County opened on Nov. 1, 2018 at the House of Refuge Church on E. Carleton Road.
“It’s important because we haven’t had an overnight warming center in Hillsdale,” Myers said. “When you start something like this, you realize the need in the community.”
Myers said there are many homeless in the county that don’t even come to the center.
“With weather like this, we are so grateful for the opportunity to offer this so that no one will freeze to death,” she said.
Myers told The Collegian on Tuesday that already one of the center’s regular visitors has suffered with severe frostbite from being exposed to the cold.
“It is so important to have something like this,” she said. “It is their choice to come, but at least we know we did everything we could to give them a warm place to stay.”
Many in the community have been generous with their donations to Share the Warmth, but Myers said they are always in need of more volunteers willing to spend time in the center.
The Salvation Army in Hillsdale opened a warming center this week, with hours from 8am to 8pm. Serving hot lunches and dinners, they worked in collaboration with the Share the Warmth of Hillsdale County to make sure that people had warm places to stay 24/7.
Captain Cassy Grey at the Hillsdale Salvation Army said that they noticed an increase in people stopping by the center for meals from Tuesday to Wednesday this week.
“The weather is crazy out there, and we just want to make sure that everyone is warm, everyone is safe, and that everyone has a warm meal in their belly,” Grey said.
The Salvation Army also sought to have a place for people to come for fellowship and a chance to engage with other people, Grey said.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed a declaration on Monday calling for a state of emergency this week.
“Keeping Michiganders safe during this stretch of dangerously cold temperatures is our priority,” Whitmer said in a news statement. “Such widespread, extreme conditions have not occurred in Michigan for many years and it is imperative that we are proactive with record-low temperatures being predicted by the National Weather Service. Wind chills are predicted as low as 50 degrees below zero in many places, such as metro Detroit which is especially unaccustomed to these temps.”
Whitmer also activated the State Emergency Operations Center to aid with the “response and recovery efforts by state agencies and local government.” The center is overseen by the Michigan State Police, Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division.