Cold winds had temperatures plunging into below zero around the Centre Region as the week began, nearly breaking National Weather Service records.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, overnight temperatures from Sunday into Monday in State College dipped down to minus 7 degrees, nearly matching the record low of minus 8 set in 1904. Below-freezing temperatures are expected to continue through the rest of the week, meteorologist Bill Gartner said, sinking to subzero lows again Thursday night.
“The Eastern U.S. has been caught in a trough pattern from Canada,” he said, which has been pulling frigid air directly from the Arctic.
The flow is expected to flatten out at the end of the week, he said, bringing above-freezing temperatures into next week. This also brings the potential for more precipitation, as warming brings more moisture from the south.
With temperatures near zero, and windchills hitting as low as minus 20, any exposed skin can freeze fairly quickly, he said.
This makes getting indoors even more important. Even those without a home can find a warm place through programs like Out Of The Cold.
Operated through the Community Help Centre in State College, Out Of The Cold seeks to provide those in need with shelter through one of the local participating churches.
Different churches in the area host Out Of The Cold for about two weeks at a time, said Madi, a help center volunteer who requested that only her first name be used. Thirteen churches around State College have opened their doors, as well as one in Boalsburg and one in Port Matilda.
If someone wants to take advantage of the offer, he or she calls the center and is entered into a database with some basic information, she said. Once in the database, the person can sign up for shelter and spend the night at the church until 7 a.m.
Only 15 slots are typically open for the program, she said, and those can fill up quickly.
“That’s why Out Of The Cold is used so much,” Madi said, “because there’s not really anything else like it around.”
Even animals need protection from the cold, as failure to provide shelter can result in fines and jail time.
“We do encourage people,” said Centre County PAWS Director Lisa Bahr, “even if they have a cat or dog that lives primarily outdoors, it’s imperative that they be indoors and be protected from this bitter cold.”
Bahr said even feral and stray animals can use some extra protection, directing people to State College’s Hundred Cat Foundation for directions on how to put together a shelter.
“People are often surprised how quickly cats will take to using them,” she said.