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Despite brutal cold, life goes on in Western Pennsylvania

| Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014, 11:32 p.m.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Ice from vents greets those who pass through the 4700 block of Liberty Avenue in Bloomfield on Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014.

Joe Zimmer made sure to get in line early on Tuesday to sign up for a bed at Light of Life Rescue Mission on the North Side.

Homeless as of Monday, Zimmer needed a warm place off the streets as temperatures slithered below zero.

“Two times a day the preacher comes. It makes you feel a little bit better,” Zimmer said.

Frigid temperatures Monday night through Tuesday packed homeless shelters around Western Pennsylvania, prompted the city to open warming centers, drained car batteries and slammed AAA with calls.

Zimmer, 61, worked and lived at an apartment building that was sold. He said he lost his apartment on Monday. On Tuesday morning, he went to the library to scan newspapers and Craigslist for maintenance jobs.

“I'm not planning to stay here,” said Zimmer, bundled and wearing a Pirates baseball cap.

Temperatures bottomed at 8 below zero just after 8 a.m. at Pittsburgh International Airport, with a wind chill of minus 20. The high reached 7 degrees just before 4 p.m. Other areas registered colder temperatures, including minus 12 near Plum, said National Weather Service meteorologist Rihaan Gangat.

Temperatures were expected to drop to 6 below zero overnight Tuesday and reach as high as 13 degrees Wednesday, Gangat said.

The cold claimed thousands of car batteries, flooding AAA with 2,800 calls. Bill Hodges, 34, of West View, who works for Kendall Towing, Uptown, spent the day going from car to car, the majority of which had dead batteries.

“I work from 9 a.m. until whenever. Times like this it could be 10 or 11 o'clock at night. It's batteries and tires from people hitting potholes,” Hodges said.

The cold weather did not prevent housebound senior citizens from getting meals delivered, said Marian Matik, administrative officers for the Allegheny County Area Agency on Aging. During cold snaps, she said meal deliveries offer a chance to check on older folks.

“That's a big part of the program — having contact with someone. We will not leave the meal at the door,” Matik said.

Animal control officers John Webrich, 59, and Darryl Dwyer, 45, combed the North Side looking over fences and driving down alleys looking for pets.

“Obviously people are listening, but there are still some out there that leave their dogs out,” Dwyer said.

Bobby Kerlik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7886.

or bkerlik@tribweb.com.

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