McKeesport readies for Arctic blast with shelters, shutdowns
Civic officials and medical experts are taking action as sub-zero temperatures envelop the Mon-Yough area.
Clairton Mayor Richard Lattanzi declared a state of emergency Monday and opened the municipal building for use as a warming center.
“We have a large elderly population that we are concerned about in addition to any other residents who may need emergency shelter,” Deputy Mayor Kathy Tachoir said. “We are doing our best to help.”
City officials said Clairton City School District is ready to handle overflow crowds by opening the Education Center auditorium.
Virtually all Mon-Yough schools canceled classes for Tuesday.
In McKeesport, Mayor Michael Cherepko established an emergency warming center at the Palisades.
“The center will remain open indefinitely throughout this situation,” Cherepko said. “If you encounter an emergency in which you lose heat, please contact Allegheny County Emergency Services at 211 to make arrangements.”
Common Pleas President Judge Jeffrey Manning closed all county and magisterial district courts on Tuesday.
First responders and emergency room personnel said they are ready for cases of frostbite or hypothermia.
“EMS crews have their own insulated blankets, warm (intravenous) fluids and warm humidified oxygen,” said Dr. Kip Jenifer. an emergency physician at Jefferson Hospital. “We have heating blankets that circulate a warm flow of air around patients.”
At UPMC McKeesport, emergency room director Dr. Rani Kumar braced for an influx of patients.
“We do see patients who don't have a shelter or did not realize that they needed help,” Kumar said. “It is not infrequent.”
Kumar said hypothermia could be exacerbated by fatigue, low body mass, medications or alcohol. She said alcohol affects the blood circulation and reduces the body temperature.
Jenifer said an ideal room temperature in homes is 70-72 degrees.
“When you start getting below 65, your body temperature will start to drop as well,” he said.
County Health Department director Dr. Karen Hacker stressed the need to wear multiple layers of clothing and cover all exposed body parts when going outside.
Hacker said frostbite can occur within 30 minutes if the wind chill reading is minus-19 degrees, 10 minutes at minus-33 and five minutes if it dips to minus-48.
Frostbite includes loss of feeling and white or pale appearance in the extremities — fingers, toes, ear lobes and the tip of the nose.
“If you are exposed to temperatures at that extreme without proper protection, it could be a matter of 5-10 minutes before some sort of hypothermia sets in,” Jenifer said.
Signs of hypothermia include shivering, rapid heartbeat and breathing, and falling body temperature.
“A couple degrees is all it takes,” Jenifer said. “You might start to feel sleepy, clumsy or confused. The skin on your hands and feet might start to turn pale or blue.”
Eventually, the shivering stops, breathing slows down and so does the heartbeat.
“Your reflexes are starting to get slower,” Jenifer said. “Your muscles will become tight. It will be hard to move. You may actually lose consciousness.”
Warming centers have been opened in Elizabeth, Homestead, Munhall and elsewhere in the county.
In Munhall, the Bureau of Fire opened stations as county warming centers in the borough building, along Whitaker Way, at Thirteenth Avenue and Martha Street, and in Homestead Park at Main Street and E. Eugene Avenue.
Elizabeth borough officials opened the municipal building at 206 S. Third St. as a warming center on Monday and planned to do so Tuesday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
In Homestead, the Steel Valley Salvation Army Worship & Service Center was opened as a warming center and will operate on Tuesday from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
In West Mifflin, the county is operating a center until Wednesday at 9 a.m. at the municipal building, 3000 Lebanon Church Road. Warming center locations may be added, county officials said late Monday.
In Westmoreland County, North Huntingdon Township police said a warming center was set up at the Circleville Volunteer Fire Department hall, 129 Robbins Station Road.
East McKeesport emergency management coordinator Stacy Mays said there were no plans to open a shelter unless a power failure occurs. East McKeesport is one of several area communities that can utilize Red Cross shelters.
McKeesport Housing Authority executive director Stephen Bucklew said the Senator James R. Brewster Community Center is a designated shelter should the city declare a state of emergency.
“It has a backup generator that can provide heat in these kinds of conditions, even if the power goes out,” Bucklew said. “The mayor's office would designate when it is needed to be opened.”
Allegheny County spokeswoman Amie Downs recommended remaining at home.
“If the lack of heat is due to a power outage, they should contact the utility company to let them know about the outage and, depending on how long it is expected to return service, contact 211 then if they need to go somewhere that is heated,” Downs said.
Allegheny County's Area Agency on Aging distributed 1,250 Snowy Weather Boxes to at-risk adults. They included toilet paper, non-skid slipper socks, hand sanitizer, a flashlight and batteries, peanut butter, crackers, tuna, fruit juice, bottled water, and other shelf-stable food and drinks.
The snow that heralded the change from Sunday's 50-degree conditions triggered scattered power outages in Duquesne Light and West Penn Power service areas.
At one point, 1,100 Duquesne Light customers were in the dark but most had power back by mid-afternoon on Monday.
“The company is not expecting any widespread issues from the subzero temperatures,” Duquesne Light spokesman Joey Vallarian said.
Cherepko said that McKeesport residents experiencing power outages can call Duquesne Light at 412-393-7000.
Daily News Staff Writer Jennifer R. Vertullo contributed. Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-664-9161 ext. 1967, or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- McKeesport heritage center event recognizes famous black Mon Valley musicians
- Vigil at site of homicide remembers slain McKeesport plumber
- White Oak seeks funds to stabilize road
- Duquesne Elementary School students join the ranks of junior constables
- McKeesport Area students share views during Black History Month panel talk
- Munhall resident pleads guilty but mentally ill for killing his mother
- Clairton City School District seeks savings in food service management
- Steel Valley to post teacher, administrator salaries online
- McKeesport police use stun gun in arrest of Penn Hills man on slew of charges
- Duquesne police arrest suspect in robbery, get warrants in assault
- Work to merge Twin Rivers, Steel Valley councils of governments drags on