Hillsdale County and the sur­rounding areas got some of the coldest weather in decades, with wind­chill reaching 40 degrees below zero Wednesday. Collegian|Joesphine Von Dohlen

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.