The return of winter weather late this week and into the weekend is leading to cold weather shelters opening their doors.
Lows Thursday evening are expected to drop to near freezing, and not much of a rise on Friday and Saturday nights according to John Purdy at the National Weather Service in Mobile.
“We’ve already had a cold front moving through the region, and it’s already pushed south of the Gulf,” said Purdy. “Behind a cold front normally is a large high pressure that settles in across the area. High pressure brings cooler temperatures and clearer skies.”
As far as the numbers, the low Thursday night is forecast to be around 34 degrees, with lows of 40-45 the next two nights. There are two saving graces: light winds and dry conditions, meaning no vicious wind chill reading and no winter precipitation.
As a general rule, local shelters open when the nighttime lows drop to below the 40-45 degree mark. Among those operating will be Ferris Hill Baptist Church in Milton – where Pastor Brian Nall and volunteers are gearing up for their eighth year.
“Cots are ready to go, our volunteers are ready to go,” Nall said. “So anybody in the community who is either homeless or heatless, we’re ready to welcome them tonight between 6:30 and 8:30 p.m.”
No one will be admitted after 8:30 p.m. unless brought in by law enforcement, and nobody will be allowed to stay if under the influence of drugs or alcohol, are disoriented, or are unable to walk unaided. The shelter closes at 7:00 the next morning.
Bob Rogers at Waterfront Rescue Mission in Pensacola says they’re expecting about 180 people during the cold snap, as compared to the normal 120 clients.
“We have [an] overnight dorm of 74 beds, and we have overflow mats, about 65 mats,” said Rogers. “Plus we’ve got linens, blankets, pillows and things like that. So we’re in pretty good shape to take care of those who will show.”
Temperatures are expected to moderate to more seasonal levels by the first of next week. Forecaster John Purdy says don’t look for any major swings in readings either way, at least for now.
“Our warmest day coming up this week will be maybe Sunday into Monday,” Purdy said. “Temperatures only in the mid-60s – right around normal for this time of year.”
Ferris Hill Baptist Church is located at 6848 Chaffin St. in Milton; Waterfront Rescue Mission is at 380 West Herman Street in Pensacola, and its women’s shelter on Pace Boulevard.