’Sticking it out’ in cold temps could be deadly, officials warn as Inclement Weather Center opens for the weekend

Dangers cold weather can have on health

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Get ready for a bitterly cold weekend across the Midlands! It’s a dangerous time, and even deadly to be without shelter.

If you know someone looking for a place to stay, the Inclement Weather Center is put in place for weekends just like this.

The Inclement Weather Center is open on an as-needed basis for anyone looking for a place to stay – perfect for the upcoming chilly weekend. These services are provided through Transitions Homeless Shelter, in partnership with United Way, the Salvation Army and the City of Columbia.

Transitions CEO, Craig Currey, says there’s simply no reason for anyone to be on the street in this cold weather.

“Come in, get warm. If people see homeless folks on the street, they need to encourage them to come on to the Inclement Weather Center. Go to Transitions, we’ll help link them up with the Inclement Weather Center.”

Everyone, at least 18 years of age, is welcome to stay at the Inclement Weather Center. It’s open each year from November to March on any night that temperatures drop to 40 degrees or lower.

No one will be turned away, but it’s important that you follow these steps to get inside. Just show up at the Clean of Heart building on Laurel Street between 5:45 and 7:00 p.m. The shuttle will take you to the Inclement Weather Center. This shuttle service is the only way to gain entry.

Dr. Steve Shelton, a medical director with Palmetto Health Richland says choosing not to seek shelter could be deadly.

“Naturally, when you’re out in the cold, you feel the cold temperatures out there, your body tries to warm itself. That first step is shivering. If you begin to shiver, you’re experiencing some mild hypothermia at that point. If you continue to shiver, you can’t maintain enough body warmth, your body will continue to drop – the temperature specifically – and as that does, your brain starts to slow down.”

Dr. Shelton says the timing of this process will be different for everyone, but says eventually, “You start to get some confusion. Your heart doesn’t beat as well as it normally does and you can actually progress to unconsciousness and potentially death due to the cold itself.”

Health officials say if you’re planning to use any heaters this weekend, keep them away from anything flammable and make sure there’s plenty of ventilation.

They say carbon monoxide is another common killer when it’s cold.

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