BALTIMORE — On Wednesday, Baltimore City Health Commissioner Letitia Dzirasa declared a Code Blue Extreme Cold Alert from Thursday evening to Saturday morning, when temperatures will feel like the single digits with the wind chill.
“I encourage residents to stay indoors, especially those most vulnerable to cold,” said Dzirasa. “Extreme low temperatures can be life-threatening especially for our most vulnerable populations. Please be sure to check on neighbors who you think may be at risk to ensure that they have heat and power and take care to shelter pets appropriately.”
No one knows those temperatures better than the people living on Baltimore's streets.
"Sometimes I wonder if I'm going to walk up," said Tavian White.
White and his wife are homeless, not wanting to enter a shelter for fear of being separated, they're taking their chances in the bitter cold.
"We have an encampment near Mount Royal," said White. "But even with layers and layers of clothing it's still cold."
Helping White and others who are homeless, is advocate and activist Christina Flowers.
WMAR followed the homeless advocate as she checked on a homeless camp under the JFX near Guilford Avenue. She's been going since early this morning.
"We have to think about creative solutions," said Flowers. "I'm bringing them things like heaters, blankets, something to drink, some snacks, basically things that will help them make it through the night."
It's not only homeless camps that Flowers is checking on.
"There are also some vacant houses that we know people are in," she said. "We check on them because we don't want any fires. We want them to be safe."
Also helping during Baltimore's Code Blue Extreme Cold Alert is the Salvation Army. Staff and volunteers with the mobile Feedmore Canteen program ride around in a truck stocked with essentials.
"We have food, hot beverages, toiletries, and blankets," said driver Luther James. "When we someone in need, no matter what they look like, we stop and give them what we have."
Luther and his volunteers they helped roughly 40 people Friday night.
"It's cold out," said Luther. "Sometimes we see more but tonight it looks like some people got inside. Still, we're here for whoever we find."
Code Blue alerts are issued when temperatures, including the wind chill, are forecasted to reach 13 degrees or lower or conditions threaten vulnerable populations in the city. There have been three cold weather-related deaths in Baltimore this winter, according to the health department.
During the cold weather season, from Nov. 21 to March 15, city agencies will distribute meals to at-risk seniors, help residents apply for energy assistance and assist with weatherizing homes.
The Mayor’s Office of Homeless Services also works to expand capacity at shelters.
Wear multiple layers of loose-fitting clothing. Health officials advise residents to do the following during cold weather:
- Wear a hat and/or scarf outside
- Drink plenty of fluids and avoid alcohol
- Walk slowly and avoiding steps or curbs with ice on them to prevent falls
- Check on children, the elderly and chronically ill
- Provide appropriate shelter for pets