Caution Urged As Bitterly Cold Weather Arrives This Weekend
Boston is forecasted to experience wind chills as low as zero overnight tonight into Saturday, January 22. This follows a wind chill of below zero Thursday night into Friday.
“As Boston is impacted by another round of brutally cold weather, I urge all our residents and families to take precautions to stay safe,” said Mayor Michelle Wu. “While our City is prepared for more winter weather, I’m reminding residents to check on others, especially those more vulnerable to cold temperatures.”
Due to the low temperatures and strong wind gusts, there is an increased risk for hypothermia and frostbite in vulnerable populations, such as those experiencing homelessness, the elderly, and young children. Cold weather may also exacerbate health issues in high-risk populations.
The current City of Boston cold emergency threshold is 1 day or more of -10°F or below observed wind chill. Additionally, the current City of Boston cold advisory threshold is 1 day or more of 0°F or below observed wind chill.
Mayor Wu is advising residents to take precautions, reminding them to check in on older adults, people with disabilities ,and people experiencing homelessness. If you see an individual experiencing homelessness and vulnerable individuals out in the cold who appear immobile, disoriented, or underdressed for the cold, please call 911. If residents are aware of anyone staying in a vehicle or a place not intended for living during these extreme cold temperatures, they are encouraged to call 911 as well.
While the temperature forecast does not reach the threshold for declaring a weather emergency, Boston Centers for Youth & Families’ (BCYF) community centers will be open for people to warm up during their normal operating hours tomorrow. They are also open for pre-registered regular programming. Due to COVID-19 public health regulations, all people entering BCYF community centers must wear a face covering (covering both the nose and mouth) and must sign in and include contact information. Locations open on Saturday can be found at Boston.gov/BCYF.
The Boston Public Library's Central Library in Copley Square will be open during normal operating hours tomorrow, and is available for people in need of a place to warm up. Visitors to all BPL locations are required to wear face coverings fully covering their nose and mouth.
City COVID-19 testing sites are running on normal operating hours, but are subject to change as the forecast updates. A full list of City testing sites and any changes to hours can be found here.
The Southampton Street Shelter and Woods Mullen Shelter will remain open 24/7. Amnesty is in effect and anyone with a non-violent restriction may come in.
The Boston Police Department (BPD) is making announcements on every shift for officers and all personnel to be on the lookout for vulnerable people on the streets. BPD will conduct wellness checks or assist with transportation to available shelters and coordinate with emergency medical personnel for unsheltered homeless persons in distress. The BPD Street Outreach Unit will be available as a resource to assist the districts, outreach providers and 911 dispatch as needed.
KEY SAFETY TIPS INCLUDE:
Dress for the weather:
- Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, residents are required to wear face coverings in all indoor public places.
- Wear several layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing rather than one layer of heavy clothing.
- Outer garments should be tightly woven and water repellent.
- Wear mittens over gloves; layering works for your hands as well.
- Always wear a hat and cover your mouth with a scarf to protect your lungs.
- Dress children warmly and set reasonable time limits on outdoor play.
- Restrict infants' outdoor exposure when it is colder than 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
Watch for signs of frostbite:
- Signs of frostbite include loss of feeling and white or pale appearance in extremities such as fingers, toes, ear lobes, and the tip of the nose. If symptoms are detected, get medical help immediately.
Watch for signs of hypothermia:
- These include uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness, and apparent exhaustion. If you or someone you know shows any of these symptoms, contact a healthcare provider immediately. If symptoms are severe, call 911.
Heating guidelines for property owners and tenants:
In accordance with the Massachusetts State Sanitary Code, the heating season officially begins on September 15 and runs through June 15. Property owners must heat habitable spaces at a minimum temperature of 68 degrees between 7 a.m. and 11:00 p.m. and 64 degrees between 11:01 p.m. and 6:59 a.m.
- In case of emergency, property owners are encouraged to keep a list of licensed contractors (electrician, plumber, and general contractor) on file. Tenants experiencing problems with their heating system should check the thermostat, ensure the dial is turned on, and report insufficient or no heat problems to the property owner or manager immediately.
- If your landlord or property manager is unresponsive, call 311 to file a complaint.
- Never try to heat your home using a charcoal or gas grill, a kitchen stove, or other product not specifically designed as a heater. These can cause a fire or produce dangerous levels of carbon monoxide very quickly.
- Have your heating system cleaned and checked annually.
- Install and maintain smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors on every level of your home. Carbon monoxide is an invisible gas produced whenever any fuel is burned. Common sources include oil or gas furnaces, water heaters, fireplaces, stoves, and some space heaters. It has no smell, taste, or color. It is poisonous and can be deadly.
- Keep space heaters at least 3 feet from anything that can burn, including people.
- Space heaters should be turned off and unplugged when you leave the room, or go to bed.
Tips to keep water flowing and pipes unfrozen during extreme cold:
- The Boston Water and Sewer Commission recommends homeowners locate a home's main water shut off valve, and learn how to use it. Should a frozen pipe burst, shutting the main valve quickly will minimize flooding and property damage.
- Homeowners should insulate pipes in unheated areas like basements, garages, and crawl spaces. Use inexpensive hardware store materials to prevent pipes from freezing and to keep warm water flowing.
- Circulate warm air around pipes by keeping cabinet doors open. Circulate a trickle of tap water through pipes during extreme cold to help prevent them freezing up.
- Locate your water meter, protect it from drafts, and make sure basement doors and windows are shut tight.
- If pipes do freeze, slowly thaw them with a hair dryer, if possible. Never use an open flame to thaw pipes. If water is lost in all taps, call BWSC 24-hour Emergency Assistance Line at 617-989-7000.
Emergency home repair resources:
- Income-eligible homeowners and Boston's residents over age 60 can receive assistance with winter emergencies and repairs, such as fixing storm damage, leaking roofs, furnaces and leaking/frozen pipes. For assistance, residents should call the Mayor's hotline at 311 or the Boston Home Center at 617-635-HOME (4663).
- In addition, the Mayor's Seniors Save program helps income eligible Bostonians over the age of 60 replace old, inefficient heating systems with a brand new heating system, even before a failure occurs during the cold winter months. Older adults can also call 311 or the Boston Home Center at 617-635-HOME (4663) to be connected with a City staffer to provide additional details.
For alerts, including cold-weather alerts, residents are encouraged to sign up for Alert Boston. For more information, please visit the Winter in Boston guide and follow @CityofBoston on Twitter.