Warming shelters in high demand this winter

2014-01-27T16:30:00Z 2014-01-28T08:54:04Z Warming shelters in high demand this winterMatt Mikus matt.mikus@nwi.com, (219) 933-3241 nwitimes.com
January 27, 2014 4:30 pm  • 

Cities are opening doors for those seeking shelter from the deep freeze this winter, and some more often than in recent years.

Heritage Hall Community Center in East Chicago opened as an overnight warming shelter for 11 days in January, compared with a three-day weekend in the 2012-13 winter season.

Heritage Hall also was open as a warming shelter from 4 p.m. to 7 a.m. Monday and Tuesday.

"We've got people visiting or frequenting our center pretty much every day," said Herbert Cruz, director of Emergency Management Agency for East Chicago. "For the most part, everything is running smooth."

The shelter opens when the wind chill dips into subzero temperatures.

Gary facilities that are open 24 hours a day, such as the Calumet Township Multipurpose Center and the Gary Public Safety Facility, also serve as warming shelters, Gary spokeswoman Chelsea Whittington said.

The Genesis Convention Center also serves as a shelter. It's open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. 

Indiana University Northwest opened the Moraine Student Center lounge for the second time this year. The university decided to partner with the city, offering its facilities for the first year in the school's history.

The Crown Point Civic center has open its doors when needed. Police Chief Pete Land said the city doesn't track what days the city opens the warming shelter, but knows there have been a number of incidents, such as when drivers had to abandon cars on Interstate 65 during heavy snowfall.

"Generally speaking, we've had that the shelter open more this year than in the past few years," Land said.

Griffith Police Chief Greg Mance said the town is ready to open its North Fire Station or the Franklin Center.

"We let the public know that we can open them if someone needs them," Mance said, "But in the past, we've never had the need to open them."

Those who lose power during a storm can text SHELTER and their ZIP code to 43362 find the closest shelter.

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