Keeping warm safely during Wednesday’s hard freeze

With freeze warnings in effect until 9 a.m. Wednesday, Jacksonville and surrounding counties are working to keep people warm.

According to The Weather Authority, temperatures will start in the 20s Wednesday with wind chill values in the low 20s. We’ll see gusty winds with temperatures only climbing to 50 degrees before the lows drop into the upper 30s Wednesday night.

The National Weather Service Jacksonville said the Arctic air mass that has arrived will include widespread freezes and hard freezes for all but coastal Northeast Florida on Wednesday night, along with widespread frost.

NWS said an Arctic cold front will cross our region on Friday, followed by another round of dangerously cold weather throughout the upcoming weekend.

Because of the dangerously cold temperatures, Jacksonville is offering critical resources to some of its most vulnerable residents.

That includes people who don’t have somewhere warm to stay.

The Sulzbacher Center on East Adams Street and the City Rescue Mission on West State Street serve as cold night shelters for people in need.

The Legends Center on Soutel Drive was also opened Tuesday night as a warming center with JTA buses providing transportation there for those who need it.

Elsewhere, St. Johns, Flagler and Putnam counties and the city of Gainesville are also providing shelters from the cold for those in need.

RELATED: Cold night shelters opening in several Northeast Florida counties as temperatures drop

If you’re heading to one of these warming centers, consider bringing things like:

Air mattress, blankets and pillowsSnacks and medicationGames, toys, booksHygiene products

Andre Ayoub with the Jacksonville Emergency Preparedness Division said these resources are options for a reason.

“Even if you don’t think you need it now, with wind chill, and if you don’t have heat in your house … please use that resource,” Ayoub said. “It’s there for you. We want to make sure, ultimately, everybody’s safe and protected through this cold freeze.”

Shirley Bocook, who lives in the Riverton Tower Senior Center, told News4JAX her building has been dealing with heating issues.

RELATED: Jacksonville senior center works to keep residents with heater issues warm as temperatures drop

She said most of the problems have been fixed in the last two weeks, but Bocook’s unit still does not have heat fully restored.

She planned to stay at her apartment and use a space heater but said she would re-evaluate when it gets colder.

“So just one night, thank goodness. But there are other nights coming, cold nights coming in the next week,” Bocook said. “It’s a little frightening.”

Jacksonville city libraries are also serving as warming centers and will be open during normal business hours on Wednesday.

During a hard freeze, it’s important to protect people, pets, plants and pipes.

RELATED: Bundle up! How to protect plants and property as Jacksonville area gets freezing temps overnight

It’s advised that people bring in their potted plants, and for those who can’t, frost cloth (purchased at garden and hardware stores) is ideal.

For those keeping themselves and their pets warm with space heaters, safety is a top priority. The Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department responds to fires every year caused by space heaters that have been left too close to something flammable, have been knocked over by children or pets, or were put on an overloaded extension cord or power strip.

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