The current cold snap is causing a commotion, as towns cancel or delay polar plunges, Atlantic County’s Code Blue stretches into January and the threats of snow and record low temperatures linger.
On Thursday, Ocean City Mayor Jay Gillian announced the annual Polar Bear Plunge into the ocean was canceled because of safety concerns surrounding the area’s extreme cold weather.
“The decision was made by the First Night Board of Directors in consultation with the city administration, the police chief and the fire and rescue chief,” said Doug Bergen, the city’s public information officer.
“Cold conditions are, of course, the idea of any polar plunge. But Ocean City’s event attracts about 1,000 people, many who may not be conditioned for the extreme temperatures expected this year,” he said.
The decision to cancel came one day after Ventnor decided to cancel its own Polar Bear Plunge.
That decision was made by the event’s organizer, Mike Weissen, after he consulted the city’s mayor and commissioners.
Unlike Ocean City, the plunge in Ventnor is not a city event, according to previous reports.
Later Thursday, Brigantine announced its annual Polar Plunge would be postponed until Jan. 13.
Residents and visitors should not expect warmer temperatures any time soon.
Atlantic County extended its Code Blue alert to Jan. 3 on Thursday following forecasts showing temperatures will remain well below freezing for the next several days.
“We have air straight from the Yukon coming down,” Press Meteorologist Joe Martucci said. “We’re going to be in this pattern until at least the first weekend in January.”
Snow is also possible Saturday, and temperatures are expected to drop again afterward, Martucci forecasted.
A Code Blue alert comes into effect when temperatures are projected to be 25 degrees or lower without precipitation, 32 degrees or lower with precipitation, or wind chills of 0 degrees or less for a period of two or more hours, according to a statement from the county.
The Code Blue Alert is intended to help municipalities protect people who may be living outdoors or in poorly insulated settings and are at risk for weather-related exposure and death.
Earlier this year, Gov. Chris Christie signed legislation sponsored by state Sen. Jeff Van Drew and Assemblymen Bob Andrzejcak and Bruce Land requiring all 21 counties to work with municipal emergency management coordinators to ensure Code Blue plans are in place, which may be carried out by designated volunteer organizations.
The law applies to all municipalities with more than 10 homeless residents.
It also provides a liability shield for churches, nonprofits and volunteers who participate in Code Blue shelter programs.
In Cumberland County, shelters continue to see increases in people staying overnight as the cold streak continues.
Robin Weinstein, the Cumberland County Code Blue Coalition Chair who also is president of the M25 Initiative, a nonprofit that supports Code Blue, said 75 people were staying in shelters in Millville, Bridgeton and Vineland Wednesday night.
He expects that number to increase in the coming days.
“Homeless individuals many times make their homes in abandoned houses or cars,” he said. “Those types of things can only last so long before people look for warmer places.”
Tracy Faulkner, director of the Turning Point Day Center for the homeless in Atlantic City, said it’s typical for more people to come in when it’s cold outside and they will let people inside in the morning before the center opens if they see people standing outside.
“We don’t really have to make too many changes because we’re open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.,” she said.
“But we make sure that everyone here has the information they need about Code Blue Alerts and let them know that they can stay overnight at the Atlantic City Rescue Mission. The police usually come and give people free rides there.”