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Boston Officials Urge Caution, Make Preparations for Bitter Blast of Cold

Memories of a White Christmas have been replaced with the stark reality of dangerous cold, and Boston officials are making preparations and urging extra caution as we head into a prolonged cold snap.

The National Weather Service says there's the potential for record-breaking cold this week in New England as a big chill sets in.

According to meteorologists, temperatures will max out in the single digits in parts of northern New England on Thursday. Temperatures in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island are not expected to rise out of the 20s all week and could dip into single digits. In Maine, temperatures are expected to remain below freezing for more than 10 days.

Places like the Pine Street Inn in Boston said they help about 2,000 people a day. Right now, they are over capacity.

The center is currently helping 950 people find housing around the city. One man who’s benefited from Pine Street's services said surviving in the winter is a matter of life and death.

"There seems to be a stigma attached to being homeless," said Jamil Abdallah. "There’s a lot of people homeless for reasons out of their control and there are very few places like this in the city."

Officials at the Pine Street Inn said there are plenty of homeless people that resist coming in for a variety of reasons, but the goal is to prevent them from dying out in the extreme weather.

At the St. Francis House in Boston, they say they are also prepared to help the homeless in the extended cold streak.

"We are so well prepared to take care of our guests, especially in the weather, that anyone coming here is going to get what they need," said Maggie Burns, vice president of philanthropy and external affairs at St. Francis House.

Boston police said they have issued a reminder to officers to keep their eyes out for people struggling in the cold, and to offer assistance to anyone they come across.

Meanwhile, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh's office is urging residents to take precautions and exercise care during the low temperatures. Walsh is also encouraging residents to check on neighbors who are elderly or disabled; be mindful of homeless individuals who may need assistance; and practice caution with space heaters.

Homelessness services are also available on Boston.gov. For those needing a warm place to visit during the day, Boston Centers for Youth & Families community centers are open.

"We want to make make sure each and every Boston resident will be safe and warm when bitterly cold weather arrives this week," said Walsh. "In times like these, it's vital for residents to look out for one another, and I encourage all Bostonians to reach out to the City if they or their neighbors need help this winter season. City workers will be constantly vigilant to ensure the safety of all."

The MBTA is also preparing for the prolonged cold snap. Their efforts include storing trains in tunnels and stations overnight to shield them from the freezing temperatures. They have hundreds of workers in place to make sure the commutes during the cold run smoothly.

"We have all of our heaters, switch heaters and third rail heaters, that are being cycled throughout the night," Deputy General Manager of the MBTA Jeff Gonneville said.

For trains being kept in the rail yards, maintenance teams will keep them moving continually, and they'll be opening and closing doors so that nothing freezes.

"The largest and greatest risk we have for prolonged service disruption is broken rail," Gonneville said. "If you have broken rail, that is a service suspension."

On Wednesday morning, the Red Line experienced delays due to debris that caused the valves to freeze. The weather-related issue was resolved in time for the evening commute.

The commuter rail is also taking similar precautions Wednesday night into Thursday morning. So far, regular service is scheduled.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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