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How to weather the extreme cold: NH emergency shelter info, safety tips and more

Paul Cuno-Booth
Bunk beds inside a coach bus that the Hundred Nights shelter in Keene has converted into an overflow winter shelter.

As a "short lived but severe cold snap" settles in, organizations across New Hampshire are making plans for emergency shelters and soliciting donations to help those experiencing homelessness.

"Dangerously cold wind chills” are expected across New Hampshire Friday and Saturday, according to the National Weather Service, with readings dropping to 30 or 50 degrees below zero. Under those conditions, frostbite can occur in just several minutes.

State officials are urging residents to take precautions for what they say could be a "once in a generation cold." They're also urging people to avoid hiking and other outdoor activities in the White Mountains this weekend, given the dangerous conditions.

How to stay safe and spot signs of hypothermia

State officials are urging people to stay inside if at all possible and to prepare for potential power outages. They said residents should try to keep an emergency kit stocked with about three days' worth of supplies, including blankets, flashlights and extra batteries.

For those who are unable to find a safe place to stay inside, this guide from the National Health Care for the Homeless Council has tips on how to stay safe if you must be outdoors during extremely cold weather — though they strongly advise finding a safe indoor space if at all possible.

This guide from the CDC also includes advice on how to avoid, spot and treat hypothermia.

Learn more about how to stay safe in extreme cold using these tips from ReadyNH.gov. And here are some more practical tips for weathering a deep freeze in New Hampshire.

Where to find shelter

A state directory of shelter options is available at this link. You can also try calling 211 or visiting 211nh.org. You can also try contacting your local welfare office, using the contact information listed here.

In Manchester, a new 24-hour shelter on Beech Street also opened as of 7 p.m. Thursday. According to an announcement from the city, the shelter will remain open through April 30. It replaces an overnight warming station at the William B. Cashin Senior Activity Center that launched in early January.

In Somersworth, an emergency warming shelter is also open from 5 p.m. to 9 a.m. through Saturday night. SOS Recovery Community Organization is operating the shelter and offering bus tickets at its locations in Dover and Rochester.

According to state officials, emergency shelters are also available at the following locations this weekend:

  • Southwestern Community Services: 96 Main Street, Claremont, NH 03743
  • Salvation Army McKenna House: 100 S Fruit Street, Concord, NH 03301
  • My Friend’s Place: 368 Washington Street, Dover, NH 03820
  • Seacoast Family Promise: 27 Hampton Road, Exeter, NH 03833
  • New Generation: 568 Portsmouth Ave, Greenland, NH 03840
  • Hundred Nights, Inc: 17 Lamson Street, Keene, NH 03431
  • Southwestern Community Services: 63 Community Way, Keene, NH 03431
  • Salvation Army Carey House (Laconia): 6 Spring Street, Laconia, NH 03246
  • Tyler Blain House: 56 Prospect Street, Lancaster, NH 03584
  • Burch House: 25 Mountain Brook Cir, Lincoln, NH 03251
  • Families in Transition – New Horizons: 122 Market Street, Manchester, NH 03101
  • Angie’s Place: 434 Union Street, Manchester, NH 03103
  • Families in Transition: 136 Lowell Street, Manchester, NH 03104
  • Helping Hands Outreach: 50 Lowell Street, Manchester, NH 03101
  • Nashua Soup Kitchen & Shelter: 2 Quincy Street, Nashua, NH 03063
  • Bridge House: 260 Highland Street, Plymouth, NH 03264
  • Cross Roads House: 600 Lafayette Road, Portsmouth, NH 03801
  • Friends Emergency Housing: 130 Pembroke Rd, Suite 200, Concord, NH 03301

Where to donate cold weather supplies

Waypoint, an organization that serves unhoused and at-risk youth, also put out an urgent call for people to bring sleeping bags, jackets, tents, gloves and other supplies to its locations in Manchester or Rochester.

The Upper Valley Haven, located in White River Junction, posted on Facebook that it welcomed donations of warm clothing.

Hundred Nights Shelter in Keene also said on Facebook that it could use more sleeping bags.

NH Mutual Aid Relief Fund is also coordinating the distribution of clothing, blankets and other supplies.

How to heat your home safely

Heating equipment is a leading cause of fire in the state. But there are ways to minimize the threat.

New Hampshire’s fire marshal recommends keeping anything that can burn at least 3 feet away from heating equipment and turning portable heaters off before leaving the room or going to bed. They also urge people not to use an oven to heat their home and never use generators indoors. It’s also a good idea to check your fire alarms and carbon monoxide detectors to make sure they're working properly.

The National Weather Service recommends wrapping pipes with insulation and sealing windows to keep heat indoors. If your pipes are located in a cabinet, it helps to open the cabinet doors to allow warm air to reach the pipe. Keeping a slow stream of water running through your faucets can also help keep pipes from freezing.

Don't forget about pets or other animals

Pet owners will also need to take extra precautions this weekend. Lauren Seymour, a veterinary technician in Hopkinton, says unless pets are acclimated to below-zero cold, they should only go outside to go to the bathroom.

"I would bring all pets inside," Seymour says. "Cats, for sure. Indoor-outdoor cats, I would try and keep them inside. There's not going to be a lot of warm places to go this weekend. And any outdoor rabbits or anything, I would absolutely bring inside."

Backyard chickens are another story. New Hampshire State Veterinarian Steve Crawford says flocks should stay in their coops. Bringing birds indoors can pose risks to human health, he says.

Owners should make sure the birds have plenty of deep, dry bedding, walls and a roof to protect them from the wind. They should also have access to fresh water that isn’t frozen and calorie-rich food. Chickens will roost together for warmth, Crawford says.

Livestock owners should do the same: providing animals with enough bedding, food, water and wind protection for the extreme cold.

ASPCA and UNH Extension have more information on keeping animals safe in cold weather.

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