Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Freezing temperatures in Birmingham put people, pipes in peril

Published: Tuesday, December 14, 2010, 6:00 AM
Eric Sudduth stood Monday afternoon in below freezing temperatures at Linn Park as one of the coldest nights in Birmingham so far this fall loomed.

? To ward off the cold he wore two pairs of pants, three pairs of socks, tennis shoes, three T-shirts, three jackets, two toboggans, two pairs of gloves and a red scarf around his neck.

? Sudduth was among more than a half dozen homeless people waiting at the park to get inside nearby Boutwell Auditorium, which the city has opened nightly as an emergency shelter.

? During the day to avoid the cold, a number of homeless people such as Sudduth have visited the downtown library, where they read books or surf on public computers, and go to area shelters or churches to eat meals. "Anything to keep warm," Sudduth said.

? The temperature early this morning was expected to hit 16 degrees, said Mary Keiser, meteorologist with National Weather Service in Calera. That would tie the coldest temperature so far this fall, which was Dec. 9, she said. The record low for Dec. 14 is 14 degrees, which was set in 1917, she said.

?The Birmingham Water Works Board on Monday also issued a winter weather advisory that asks customers to protect the outdoor and indoor plumbing from costly damage.

? Temperatures will remain cold into Wednesday, with a period of possible freezing rain that morning, Keiser said. But the high on Thursday is expected to be near 60, she said.

? With temperatures at or near record lows in recent nights, homeless shelters have been at capacity in the Birmingham area, a few homeless advocates said.

? Don Lupo, director of the Mayor's Office of Citizens Assistance, said nearly 150 people slept at the warming station at Boutwell on Sunday night.

? Steve Freeman, executive director of The Firehouse Shelter on Third Avenue North in downtown Birmingham, said the Boutwell warming station has helped ease overcrowding at that shelter. He said they had about 70 to 75 on Sunday night.

? Nicole Arlain, case manager for the Firehouse Shelter's street outreach program, handed out blankets and plastic bags filled with toiletry items to homeless people gathered at Linn Park on Monday. She said the main goal was to give the items to people who were not going to a shelter.

? Arlain, however, didn't have many blankets, gloves or other pieces of warm clothing to hand out.

? Donations of blankets, caps, gloves and other clothing are at a low point for the shelter at Third Avenue and 15th Street North, Freeman said. "We're down to our last few items," he said.

Join the conversation by clicking to comment or e-mail Faulk at kfaulk@bhamnews.com

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