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Shelters on standby as polar vortex grips region

January 31, 2019

HUNTINGTON - Warming shelters in Cabell County are on standby to open as a polar vortex continues to roll through the region Wednesday and Thursday, bringing dangerously cold temperatures and wind chills.

Earlier Wednesday, the West Virginia Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management announced several warming shelters were available in Cabell County, including several in Huntington, Barboursville, Ona and Salt Rock.

However, those shelters are waiting to open in the event of an emergency, such as widespread power outages, said Elizabeth Adkins, public information officer for the Cabell County Emergency Operations Center.

Adkins said emergency officials would be in touch with shelter partners about opening up if necessary Wednesday night or Thursday.

Representatives at Christ Temple Church, located at 2400 Johnstown Road, said they’ve seen a few people come in to escape the cold weather.

Officials at the Salvation Army, 1227 3rd Ave. in downtown Huntington, said they were prepared to open up the shelter if they receive visitors.

In Huntington, Harmony House, 627 4th Ave., will open at 6 a.m. on any day falling below 30 degrees. At the Huntington City Mission at 624 10th St., anyone may come escape the cold, even if they have been previously barred from there.

Amanda Coleman, executive director of the Cabell-Huntington Coalition for the Homeless, said teams were working to encourage known homeless people to come inside. Anyone aware of someone living in inhabitable conditions is asked to call 304-417-2465.

The Huntington Cabell Wayne Animal Shelter said it doesn’t operate a warming shelter for cold pets, but would work with people on a hardship basis. Anyone seeking help should contact the shelter at 304-696-5551 between 10 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

The latest updates from the National Weather Service in Charleston shows an arctic front moving across the state with bitterly cold air and high winds.

In Cabell County, a wind chill advisory was in effect until 10 a.m. Thursday, with snow showers and squalls expected. Up to one inch of snow accumulation is predicted, with wind gusts up to 40 mph. This could create wind chills of minus 15 degrees.

The advisory warns of possibly slippery road conditions during the Thursday morning and evening commutes. Cold wind chills may result in frostbite or hypothermia. People are urged to wear hats, gloves and other protective clothing.

Much of the state remains under a winter weather advisory until 10 a.m. Thursday. The cold front is expected to bring quick snow accumulations and brief white-out conditions in some parts of the state.

The coldest air of the season is expected Thursday morning, when actual temperatures may fall to single digits or below zero degrees.

The West Virginia Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, the West Virginia National Guard and other state agencies continue to monitor the extreme weather.

As of 8 a.m. Wednesday, the State Emergency Operations Center had received situation reports from all 55 counties. No county or jurisdiction reported unmet needs or significant issues, said Lora Lipscomb, public information officer for the West Virginia Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, in a news release.

People are asked to stay up to date on the latest emergency information by searching on Facebook for “WV Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.” People may also learn about traffic delays and road conditions by visiting www.wv511.org.

Several schools were canceled Thursday because of the inclement weather, including Cabell, Wayne, Lincoln, Putnam and Mason counties. Marshall University canceled morning classes Thursday. Classes scheduled for 11 a.m. and after will be open and university offices will open at 10 a.m.

Travis Crum is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. He may be reached by phone at 304-526-2801.

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