South Jersey residents braced Tuesday against record-breaking subfreezing temperatures, and a winter storm watch was issued forecasting snow later in the week.
Press Meteorologist Joe Martucci said shore areas in Atlantic, Cape May and Ocean counties could see 3 to 6 inches of snow Thursday to go along with the frigid temperatures.
The cold Tuesday was the latest in a stretch of nearly a week of below-freezing temperatures. The high was only 24 degrees and the low was 9. On Wednesday, the high will be 34 degrees.
Snow is expected Thursday with a surface low-pressure system charging up the coast. Friday night’s low will be the coldest yet — only 4 degrees.
“This has to be one of the coldest cold spells we’ve had this early in the season,” Atlantic City Fire Chief Scott Evans said.
In Atlantic City, officials and residents are preparing for the looming winter storm. A streak of frigid temperatures already has caused disruptions in the area.
On Tuesday, a winter storm watch was issued by the National Weather Service for Wednesday night into Thursday, and the Atlantic County Office of Emergency Preparedness has extended the Code Blue Alert through next week.
Code Blue means temperatures will stay below freezing with wind chills of 0 degrees or lower for a period of two or more hours, forecasters say.
The cold streak already has made its mark on Atlantic City. Evans said the Fire Department responded to seven calls within the past week for burst pipes.
Absegami High School in Galloway Township dismissed students early Tuesday after several pipes burst at the school, according to messages sent to parents and employees around 10 a.m.
“We have had several pipes burst due to extreme temperatures,” read a message posted on the district website.
It was the first day back for students in the Greater Egg Harbor Regional School District after winter break. According to the message, after-school sports and activities were canceled. Students were dismissed at 12:15 p.m. Greater Egg Harbor Regional Superintendent John Keenan said Absegami will open for a normal day Wednesday.
Evans, who is also director of the Office of Emergency Management, said the city has begun storm preparations.
“All departments are notified of the pending conditions,” he said. “All departments are at the highest level of readiness. That means everyone maintains situational awareness, everyone’s equipment is prepared and staffing levels are planned.”
Staying warm and staying inside are the best ways to weather the storm, Evans said, and the biggest prep residents can do is to continuously monitor conditions.
If people do have to venture outside, Evans recommends being 100 percent covered, including face masks and gloves.
For some residents, staying inside isn’t an option.
Sarah Kabo, 42, of Ventnor, said she hasn’t had heat at night since she moved into her apartment in October.
“Basically, the heat was on in the daytime but off at night, which makes it impossible for me to sleep here,” she said.
Since it’s too cold to sleep at her apartment, she’s been staying in hotels and at friends’ houses.
“It’s too cold to be in here with this weather we have,” she said.
AtlantiCare said in a statement it is helping prepare area residents for the impending storm and readying itself for an increase in cold-related health emergencies.
AtlantiCare Health Services Mission Health Care at the William L. Gormley AtlantiCare HealthPlex in Atlantic City has provided hats, gloves and hand warmers to 200 people, said Jennifer Tornetta, director of media relations and public affairs. It also has transported at-risk people to warming stations, the Atlantic City Rescue Mission and Turning Point.
“We are expecting an uptick in patients suffering from hypothermia,” said Dr. Edward Hamaty Jr., chairman of the Department of Critical Care Medicine for AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center. “We have protocols and equipment in place for warming patients suffering from extreme cold exposure.”
In addition, AtlantiCare’s hospice team is checking to make sure patients have backup power sources for their medical devices, and family members have contact information for the team in case there are any issues, Tornetta said.