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Cold front pummels Marshalltown

People and animals urged to stay inside

T-R PHOTO BY Janine Erman Rob Meling of Meling Snow Removal keeps working despite snow, ice and below zero temperatures. He is contracted by Tom Harris Auctions to provide plow service.

When the wind chills get frigid in Iowa, it gets dangerous.

Arctic air pushed its way into the Hawkeye State late Wednesday evening and plunged the Marshalltown area to below zero temperatures with negative 21 or less wind chills.

The best course of action for all warm-blooded beings is to stay inside and stay warm.

What if you are homeless and are then forced to spend much of your day trying to find a warm spot just to keep fingers and toes from freezing?

Marshalltown has many compassionate and warm people to give aid to their fellow neighbor. Unfortunately the community has very few overnight accommodations for the homeless.

Captain Bryan Batterson did not know of a warming center open at night and said “We refer the homeless to the Salvation Army or House of Compassion but that is only for the day. If there is a desperate need at night we can work out somewhere for them to go”.

March Runner, executive director of the House of Compassion, said she knew of nowhere available for the homeless at night.

“Most were going to HyVee but with it not being open 24 hours anymore that is not available,” she said.

The homeless visit the library, community churches, laundromats and gas stations to sit for a brief spell to get out of inclement weather.

The Salvation Army and the House of Compassion workers drive around when the temperatures drop to see if anyone needs help but fortunately did not see too many people in need of assistance on Thursday.

“Burlington Trailways used to stop here and we could send homeless to Des Moines or Ames to sleep overnight but that route stopped coming through on Dec. 1 of last year,” Runner said.

The House of Compassion seeks to gain approval to have overnight accommodations but will need repairs to come up to code and will require donations to get those repairs done.

Stay warm

Melissa Pearson, an advanced registered nurse practitioner with UnityPoint Health – Marshalltown Urgent Care, said she does not see a lot of exposure issues in the Urgent Care and the danger factor has no set number.

“Dangerous cold weather temps will depend on actual temperature, speed of wind, amount of time exposed in cold weather and external body moisture, which can cause a chill that dramatically changes your body’s rate of cooling and how you feel,” she said.

Frostbite, Pearson said, can occur in minutes and usually affects the unexposed skin such as fingers, toes and ears.

“However, depending on circumstances, hypothermia could take different amounts of time,” she said. “These would depend on age, exposure, alcohol intake, amount of clothing a person is wearing, if they are wet from falling in water and things of that nature.”

Pearson urged people to get out of the cold as soon as possible and get into a warmer environment. Other tips she provided are:

• Remove any damp or wet clothing and start warming the middle areas of the body including head, neck and chest with a heating pad or against the skin of someone with a normal body temperature.

• Drink something warm to gradually increase body temperature, but it should not be alcoholic.

• After a warmer body temperature is reached, stay dry and wrapped in a warm blanket.

Protect animals

People are not the only sufferers of the cold. Pets can get left outside and need to be protected, too.

Shelly Nodland, director of the Animal Rescue League, said people need to find room for their outside animals.

“Bring them inside,” she said. “Put them in your porch, shed, garage, barn, preferably heated. Protect them from this weather. The shelter has to protect them from wind, rain and snow.”

The non-profit has special houses built for outdoor feral cats. While the cats are not picked up by people, they can take shelter in the tiny houses which have heating pads.

“We cannot catch these cats but we can still protect them,” Nodland said.

When canines need to go outside, she said make sure it is a quick trip. Like humans, dogs can suffer from hypothermia, too, Nodland said.

Some signs of distress she said people can watch for in animals include lethargy, shivering and not getting up. When those happen, Nodland said medical help is needed immediately.

“You should always have a year-long plan if you are a pet owner,” she said. “There needs to be a plan. This is Iowa.”

March Runner, Executive Director

of the House of Compassion said the “point-in-time” count of homeless in

Marshalltown as of January 29-30

was 17 individuals.

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Email Lana Bradstream at lbradstream@timesrepublican.com

or Janine Erman at jerman@timesrepublican.com.

Both writers can be reached by phone at 641-753-6611.