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'It's cold, it's miserable'

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- With temperatures dipping into single digits, a number of people awoke to cold-related car problems Tuesday morning, AAA officials said.

AAA offices in affected areas had almost twice the call volume as normal for a Tuesday morning, said Christina Rollyson, district office supervisor for the Charleston-area AAA.

The low temperatures caused locks to freeze but the biggest problem was the stress the cold put on car batteries, Rollyson said.

"The number-one call we get, really, is battery," she said. "If their battery was already needing to be replaced, this will do it."

Rollyson said drivers should be prepared in case they're stuck in their vehicle during extreme cold weather. Jumper cables, flares, extra blankets, clothes and walking shoes should be kept in vehicles in case of an emergency, she said.

Cold, dry air from the Arctic caused temperatures to hit 11 degrees late Monday and into Tuesday morning, said Andy Roche, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Charleston. With the wind chill, the temperature felt more like 3 below zero, he said.

Tuesday's high was 21 degrees and meteorologists expected the low Tuesday night to be around 9.

These bursts of extreme cold usually happen once or twice each winter, Roche said.

"The last few years, it has been delayed a little bit," Roche said. "We're already to the end of January almost, and this is the first shot we have from the Arctic."

Temperatures are expected to rise over the next few days, but warm is relative, Roche said.

"[There's] a slow warming trend," Roche said. "It seems like every day [will] warm up a little bit, but the warm is misplaced because it's going to continue to be below freezing Thursday."

Emergency rooms at Charleston Area Medical Center, Thomas Hospital and Saint Francis Hospital did not see any increases in patients because of cold weather, but at least one of the homeless shelters in the Charleston area was expecting more traffic.

Workers at the Roark-Sullivan Lifeway Center typically see more people at their men's shelter on Leon Sullivan Way during the winter. The center has 60 beds, but keeps cots and mats on hand to accommodate more when there's a need, said CEO Alex Alston.

Monday night, there were more than 70 men at the shelter, Alston said.

Being above capacity is normal for the shelter, he said, but during the winter, men typically come earlier in the day to get out of the cold.

"It's cold, it's miserable," Alston said. "I would not want to be out there, I know. That's why we've got to make sure we have a place [for them to stay]."

The cold weather did not have the same effect at Sojourner's Shelter in Charleston, officials there said.

"Our statistics don't go down because it's summer," director Margaret Taylor said. "Most people think that, but it's no longer true. We have just as many people in the summer as we do in the winter."

Reach Lori Kersey at lori.kersey@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1240.


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