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Warming centers are making room as a major cold front comes to New Hampshire

1269 Cafe is located at 456 Union St. in Manchester
Mary Chevalier
1269 Cafe is located at 456 Union St. in Manchester

A powerful cold front is coming to New Hampshire tonight and tomorrow, and temperatures could dive below zero. Granite Staters in need of shelter can call 211 to find warming centers near them.

Gary Best, a meteorologist at the NHPR Forecast Center in Nashua, said it may be dangerous to be outside.

“Especially in the nighttime hours with that gusty wind and those very low-temperature readings and the windchill of 15 to 25 [degrees] below, that really can do a job on you with frostbite, so you have to layer your clothing and make sure you stay warm," he said. “You might want to trickle your faucet over the next couple of nights so that doesn’t freeze up.”

Warming centers say they’ve been busy this year already.

Dan Clark oversees the Strafford County Extreme Weather Warming Center, which opened full-time in December. He said he’s working on implementing a new floor plan for the center by Monday night, to fit in more beds and provide space for more people.

“It’s a warm place to be. You can sleep, you can shower, do your laundry, we have food available, and we really want to get as many people in as we can,” Clark said.

The center has had a 50-person capacity due to COVID-19, and Clark said they’ve been at or close to capacity in recent days.

The new floor plan includes bunk beds in which attendees would sleep with their heads on opposite sides, six feet apart. They’ll also move around cots and fit more beds in with adjusted positions, Clark said.

Last year, the center was only open a couple of days at a time. But this year, they’ve been open every night.

At the 1269 Cafe in Manchester, which opened an overnight warming station in December, things have been busy, said co-founder Mary Chevalier.

Generally, they take about 50 people. But Chevalier said they’ll be flexible. “Coming up this week, during the super cold snap, we’re not going to turn people away because they’re person number 51,” she said.

The cafe has had higher numbers than Chevalier expected early in the season, but she’s not sure if that number will stay stable or if they’ll see more demand as the weather turns particularly cold.

Her first piece of advice for people looking to get out of the cold is to go to a shelter, but 1269 Cafe is an option too.

“If people are roughing it and they decide at 1 o'clock in the morning that it is too cold for them then by all means, come to our door and we will welcome you with open arms,” she said.

Anybody interested in accessing the warming station can find it at 456 Union St. in Manchester. Doors begin to open at 8:00 pm, and the space is open until 7:00 am, as well as for much of the day after a short closure in the morning.

The National Weather Center has issued wind chill warnings and advisories for much of New Hampshire. Wind chills could reach -25 degrees in southern and central New Hampshire and -40 degrees in the northern parts of the state.

Some light snow showers may occur Monday night, and temperatures are expected to warm by the end of the week.

Mara Hoplamazian reports on climate change, energy, and the environment for NHPR.
Julia Furukawa is the host of All Things Considered at NHPR. She joined the NHPR team in 2021 as a fellow producing ATC after working as a reporter and editor for The Paris News in Texas and a freelancer for KNKX Public Radio in Seattle.
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