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‘Stay inside:’ Mayor Tom Barrett, health officials talk about preparations for bitter cold

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MILWAUKEE -- The cold is so dangerous the City of Milwaukee has declared a cold emergency. St. Benedict the Moor Parish Church is one of eight sites people can take shelter.

St. Ben's is expecting more than 100 people to sleep there overnight Tuesday, Jan. 29 -- well over capacity. But the cold is too dangerous to turn anyone away.

"Extremely severe and it's a threat to public health," said Milwaukee Health Commissioner Jeanette Kowalik.

All non-essential city workers are to stay home. Those who must work will be looking out for those in need.

"This is not the night for anyone to stay outside," said Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.

Milwaukee police are patrolling the city's homeless camps, and escorting people to one of eight warming shelters.

"There are now more than 300 beds available for families and singles," said Steven Mahan, Community Development Grants Administration.

Most of those beds are at St. Ben's.

"It's very important because people do need a place to go," said Alexis, taking shelter at St. Ben's.

One hundred people, 20 more than it's designed for, filled the space Monday night.

"I want to protect these people," said Brother Rob Roemer, Capuchin Community Services.

Rob Roemer

Brother Rob Roemer at Capuchin Community Services, is making room for even more.

"We are not going to turn folks away in this cold. We are not going to do that. We can always give them a chair to sit in if nothing else," said Roemer.

Providing shelter for those who need it and offering prayers for everyone else.

"This place is more safe. Feel loved and cared," Alexis said.

The city is checking in with all eight shelters every hour. If more beds are needed, they will ask other churches to open their doors.

The bitter cold is expected to blanket the Midwest the next two to three days. CLICK HERE for the complete FOX6 Weather forecast.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett

Mayor Barrett offered a list of items he strongly encouraged residents to read through -- to stay safe during the dangerously cold temperatures. Those include:

  1. Minimize time spent outdoors
  2. Wear appropriate clothing and cover exposed skin
  3. Be aware of the symptoms of frostbite
  4. Stay hydrated
  5. Be sure your vehicle's fuel tank is at least half full and the battery is charged
  6. Heat your home with devices approved for indoor use only
  7. Check on family members, friends, neighbors
  8. Don't forget your pets -- get them in and out of the cold quickly

Officials urged anyone to call 211 for information about places to stay warm, including emergency shelter options that are available year-round. CLICK HERE for a complete list of Milwaukee Area Warming Centers.

Barrett took a moment to thank all of the city's workers who must spent time outside -- no matter the weather. He was talking about police officers, firefighters, DPW workers.

"They are the pinnacle of essential personnel. Because they are there 24 hours a day, around the clock no matter what the weather is. They are there for our safety," Barrett said. "The essential services will remain open for the city."

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