Deep South braces for blast of freezing weather

Jeff Martin
Associated Press

Atlanta – Potentially life-threatening cold spread across the Deep South on Saturday, as forecasters issued winter weather advisories in multiple states and warned that freezing temperatures would likely last for the next several days.

Stephen Bishop of Tyler takes three sweater-wearing dogs on a walk at the Rose Rudman Trail in Tyler, Texas on Friday, Dec. 29, 2017. The temperatures are expected to drop in East Texas going into the New Year with possible lows in the 20s on New Year's Eve.

The advisories covered eastern Louisiana and most of Mississippi and Alabama.

Freezing rain and a wintry mix was possible through the weekend, the National Weather Service said. Then, low temperatures could drop below 15 degrees in parts of Louisiana and Mississippi during the first few days of 2018, forecasters said.

In Georgia, advocates for the homeless feared the unusually long stretch of frigid weather in Atlanta could kill some homeless people in the city. The temperature in Atlanta is expected to dip into the low 20s on New Year’s Eve, and plunge into the teens Monday and Tuesday night.

Alexander Doepper of Hagen, Germany, helps his one year old son Jannis walk near the Washington Monument on the National Mall as they brave temperatures in the teens, Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017, in Washington.
In this Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2017, photo, with temperatures in the low teens, Parker Still tries to fish through the ice, from a dock at Lake Shawnee in Topeka, Kan.

“A lot of people are ready for the night but occasionally we bump into people who are totally unprepared,” said Drew Benton, who works with volunteers who go beneath bridges and other areas where Atlanta’s homeless spend the night. They give them clothing, blankets and other items on the coldest nights of the year.

“We’ve seen people in a T-shirt and jeans walking around. We’ve seen children out there before - we’ve seen a lot of circumstances where people are just totally unprepared,” Benton said.

People pose for photographs in front of a frozen water fountain at Bryant Park, Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017, in New York. A large swath of northern New York is encased in ice and snow after days of lake-effect storms followed by an arctic cold front sending temperatures well below zero.

Benton’s nonprofit, Project Live Love, blasts an email to volunteers announcing a “go night” whenever the temperature is expected to fall below 31 degrees. He said they’re prepared to hit the streets and distribute supplies for the next eight nights if the freezing temperatures continue as expected.

One item they hand out is dry socks, which can be a life-saver.

Kelly Richards, left, and Lisa Rippe, jog around Lake Harriet in the sub-zero temps Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2017, in Minneapolis.

“A lot of our freezes will come with a rain before it and if you get your feet wet, you’re in a lot of trouble,” he said.

The start of the new year will also mark the coldest temperatures in Atlanta since its largest shelter, known as Peachtree-Pine, closed. People who work with the homeless believe that the closure this fall has now exposed more homeless people to the elements.

When Benton’s teams distributed supplies on Dec. 8, “the streets were just covered with people,” he said. Under one bridge downtown, they saw about 150 people trying to stay warm.