Temperatures hit record lows in Metro Detroit, but the bitter cold was more than a reading on a thermometer for the hundreds of homeless across the area — it was a matter of survival.
Goodrich also said on average, the center is hosting more than 80 people a night, and a couple of guests have shown up at the center showing the effects of exposure to subzero temperatures.
“One man who’s been a guest here had to have part of his ear amputated because it was frost-bitten,” said Kathy Goodrich, director of the Macomb Warming Center and Ray of Hope Day Center in Eastpointe. “There was another who fell into a snowbank and broke his foot. He was walking around with a huge cast.”
Temperatures dropped to a dangerous low of When the thermometer hit minus 10 degrees 8:07 a.m. Tuesday, which broke the previous low record of minus 8 degrees set in 1977, according to records kept by the National Weather Service in White Lake Township.
Elsewhere, Ann Arbor reached minus 14, Coldwater hit minus 12 and Grand Rapids was minus 9.
“Additionally, the wind chill effect was minus 28 degrees,” meteorologist Matt Mosteiko said of Metro Detroit. “We had a wind chill warning through noon Tuesday, which changed to a wind chill advisory through 10 a.m. Wednesday.”
Hundreds of schools in southeastern Michigan remain closed Tuesday due to the record-breaking temperatures. Classes were canceled at the University of Michigan, Eastern Michigan University, Wayne State University, University of Flint, University of Michigan-Dearborn and Oakland University. But classes were still on at Michigan State University.
Tuesday’s deep freeze has also been tough on people’s vehicles. Nancy Cain, a spokeswoman for AAA Michigan, said the Dearborn-based auto club received 900 calls for roadside help as of 10:30 a.m. Tuesday as frigid temperatures drain car batteries and icy roads cause motorists to end up in ditches.
Alaina Bresnahan, 23, said Tuesday morning was walking on Congress in downtown Detroit, where she took the brunt of the blustery conditions while heading to work at Quicken Loans.
“The wind off of the river is killing us,” she said.
More people seek shelter from cold
Goodrich said Tuesday she has seen an increase in the number of new people coming to the facility to escape the brutal cold.
“We’ve had a lot of people come in, but there are a lot of people we’ve never seen here before,” she said.
At least 120 people showed up at Operation Get Down’s Medbury Street location in Detroit seeking shelter, warmth, a bed and a hot meal, supervisor Vanessa Boyd said
According to Boyd, the shelter offers more than a warm bed.
“We also provide them with a meal, a safe environment, TV and movies and a shower,” Boyd said. “We’re offering extended hours during these extremely cold temperatures. We don’t want anything to happen to our guests.”
The Cass Community Social Services shelters in Detroit have been open around the clock for the past five daysand have had a driver canvassing the city around the clock, according to executive director Faith Fowler.
“Our shelters are full, and we’ve seen a couple of bad cases of frostbite. I’ve never seen this many people coming in and needing shelter,” Fowler said.
According to Fowler, one shelter provided beds, food, security, showers and laundry services to 64 men Monday night while the women’s shelter did the same for 50 women and children.
Salvation Army Major Mark Anderson, general secretary of the charity’s Eastern Michigan Division, which serves Metro Detroit, said the cold snap has prompted it to issue an “all alert.”
Anderson said the nonprofit is working with other shelters to make sure “there’s no one left out in the cold.”
“We’re hoping our facilities across the city will be a buffer for people against the cold,” he said. ”
The Salvation Army has about 1,700 beds available across Metro Detroit for “those who are cold” and “those who just need a place to go,” Anderson said. About 80 percent of the spots are being used currently, he said.
In addition, the nonprofit continues to have its Bed & Bread trucks make their daily stops in the Metro Detroit’s most depressed areas to give meals and blankets to the needy.
Despite the cold, the Detroit Area Agency on Aging’s Meals on Wheels program remains hard at work, according to communications director Juliette Murdock.
“We are running at full capacity, unlike a few weeks ago when the big blizzard prevented some deliveries,” said Murdock, who estimates the program serves meals to about 2,000 seniors a day.
“... We’re not getting more calls for meals to be delivered, but we are getting requests for snow shoveling.”
Pets need shelter, too
Humans aren’t the only ones who need warmth and shelter on frigid nights.
Dogs and cats can’t survive long if left outside and can be victims to frostbite, hypothermia and death, just like people. Animals may have fur, but their body weight is less, they go “barefoot” and their ears and noses are exposed to the cold.
“So far I haven’t seen any cases of frost bite for cats and dogs, but it should be any day now,” said Dr. Alice Marczewski of the Jefferson Avenue Veterinary Center in Detroit. “Cats are especially good at hiding frost bite. The best tip is based on common sense: In frigid weather, keep your pets inside. And don’t hesitate to call an animal cruelty hot line if you see an animal tied up outside in the cold.”
The Michigan Humane Society Cruelty Hot Line is (313) 872-3401.
Staff Writer Tony Briscoe contributed.