Anthony Gray did what almost all of the 6,000 or so homeless people in Atlanta had to do Monday, as temperatures plunged to a record 6 degrees F.: He made a decision to possibly save his own life, or at least his fingers and toes, from the polar vortex.
A person who says he likes his own space, which means often sleeping by himself outdoors, Mr. Gray decided to seek shelter with the multitudes clustering around community hearths amid a dangerous, even deadly, Arcticcold wave that weather experts said had the potential of freezing bare skin with only 15 minutes of exposure.
“All the homeless people ran for their lives, and I did, too!” says Gray, who took sanctuary in county-run Grady Hospital, which cares for the city’s poor. “I’d never seen it so cold in the South.” he said.
As temperatures finally floated above freezing on Thursday, those who live in a part of the country unaccustomed to minus wind chills reflected on a dangerous few days that plunged Southern cities with vulnerable homeless people from Austin to Atlanta into a historic cold.
To be sure, the chill took its toll: Two people died in the Atlanta area from exposure, part of a cohort of some 21 people across the US who died for reasons connected in some way to the frigid weather.
Comparatively, however, only a few who perished could be considered chronically homeless, even though those folks are arguably the most cold-vulnerable group of Americans, with as many as 800,000 of them sleeping outside on any given night.
That suggests to some that many Americans showed particular, though perhaps not unexpected, concern for the less fortunate in a cold snap that exposed so many already-vulnerable citizens to weather that was, as Weather Channel meteorologist Kevin Roth told NBC News, “[It is cold enough to take your breath away}”
State emergency officials said they were on high alert as the dense mass of polar cold air approached last weekend. Yet in the end, not a single Georgia municipality requested help from the Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA), which mostly gave warnings and updates on the “weather event” as it proceeded into the midweek.
Another polar vortex could be on its way(weather.aol.com)
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Image: Titan’s sunlit edge(phys.org)