For most, the temperature drop may be a temporary inconvenience felt dashing from the car to inside the home or office, but for the hundreds of thousands of Americans who are homeless or who cannot afford adequate heating, freezing temperatures can be deadly.
Last month, seven people died of exposure to the cold in San Francisco when an unseasonable drop in temperature left many vulnerable.
For cities such as Boston and New York, freezing temperatures are more common. Many metropolitan areas across the country have instituted Code Blue procedures to help assist people who have nowhere to go when the weather is hazardous.
John Cunningham, 37, walks towards his shanty beneath the Manhattan Bridge in New York following a snowstorm. (AP Photo/Wally Santana)
The New York Department of Homeless Services (DHS) will issue a Level 1 Code Blue 24 hours before temperatures are set to drop below freezing. A Level 2 is issued ahead of temperatures dropping to 20 degrees Fahrenheit. A winter weather emergency will be issued if there will be more than 6 inches of snow, sustained winds of more than 4 mph, a high below 15 degrees and/or ice and freezing rain.
On Jan. 3, New York City is expected to receive 6 to 10 inches of snow with highs in the teens. The AccuWeather RealFeel® temperature may be as low as zero. Overnight, lows will reach the single digits and may feel as cold as 12 degrees below zero F.
At 1:30 p.m. EST, the press center for DHS told AccuWeather.com that a Code Blue will be issued for the city, with more details to follow in an evening briefing by Mayor Bill de Blasio.
For the DHS, in conjunction with groups such as the Coalition for the Homeless, this means opening emergency shelters, increasing shelter staff and taking heated buses through the city to look for people who are left on the streets with nowhere to go. Shelters are not allowed to suspend residents of shelters when a Code Blue is in effect.
According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, 700 people die of hypothermia every year who experience homelessness.
In a report by the National Alliance to End Homelessness it was stated that about 20 people per 10,000 are without homes, with a point-in-time count of 633,782 last January. There are about 14 million homes that are vacant year round in the United States, some of which are abandoned or condemned and require tax money to maintain or tear down.
Adding to that the costs of emergency room visits, jail stays and shelters for homeless populations, the State of Utah has been combatting homelessness by providing people with apartments, job counselors and social workers through the Housing First plan, at a savings for the state of about $5,000 per (formerly) homeless person, per year.