As deep freeze sets in, people urged to help most vulnerable

In this Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2017, photo, homeless men Sean Stuart, left, and Segundo Rivera walk on a street after spending the day at St. Francis House in Boston. With temperatures across Massachusetts not expected to rise above freezing for days, politicians and advocates for the homeless are particularly concerned about getting as many people as possible into shelters. Stuart and Rivera told the Boston Herald that they're not comfortable spending the night in a shelter. "We've lived out here so long it's like honestly, this is comfortable for us," Rivera said. (Christopher Evans/The Boston Herald via AP)

Joe Scharpf cross country skis on a trail after a fresh snowfall in the south chagrin reservation of the Cleveland Metroparks, Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017, in Moreland Hills, Ohio. Scharpf said he will ski about 6 miles on the trail. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

As the weather turns colder, water along the edge of one of the many creeks in the Pungo section of in Virginia Beach, Va., begins to freeze, Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017. Cold temperatures are expected through next week. (L. Todd Spencer/The Virginian-Pilot via AP)

Icicles hang from the fountain at Town Center in Virginia Beach, Va., on Thursday morning Dec. 28, 2017. Cold temperatures are expected through the week. (L. Todd Spencer/The Virginian-Pilot via AP)

A boy has his face bundled against temperatures in the teens on the National Mall, Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Alexander Doepper of Hagen, Germany, helps his one year old son Jannis walk near the Washington Monument on the National Mall as they brave temperatures in the teens, Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — The post-Christmas prolonged, dangerously cold weather across half the country has advocates for the homeless scrambling to get people off the streets and local officials urging residents to assist their elderly neighbors.

Forecasters warned people to be wary of hypothermia and frostbite from the arctic blast has gripped a large swath from the Midwest to the Northeast, where the temperature, without the wind chill factored in, dipped to minus 32 Thursday morning in Watertown, New York. Temperatures rose to minus 7 early Friday morning.

Warming centers were set up in some locations including recreation centers across Cincinnati. Boston’s Pine Street Inn sent a van with outreach workers around to persuade people to spend the night inside, but some said they prefer the streets.

Segundo Rivera and Sean Stuart told the Boston Herald they’re not comfortable spending the night in a shelter.

“We’ve lived out here so long it’s like honestly, this is comfortable for us,” Rivera said.

A shelter spokeswoman said that if people don’t want to go to a shelter, they’re given blankets, warm clothing and a hot beverage, and informed of the dangers of extreme cold.

The Ohio Department of Aging said older people are at increased risk from such severe cold, from medication side effects to falling risks. The department encouraged people to check on family members, friends and neighbors to make sure they’re warm enough and have their needed medications and sufficient food and water.

Animal advocates also urged people to remember their pets.

In Toledo, the humane society was looking into the death of a dog found “frozen solid” on a porch, cruelty investigator Megan Brown told The Blade.

“I don’t know how long she was out there,” Brown said.

A second dog was recovered shivering inside the home. The dogs’ owner told The Blade utilities that had been shut off but he had been providing for the dogs while living elsewhere. He said he didn’t know how one dog, an American bully, got outside.

On Thursday, cold weather records were set from Arkansas to Maine, and the freezing air will linger through the weekend, reaching as far south as Texas and the Florida Panhandle.

In New Hampshire, the cold set a record for the day of minus 34 atop the Northeast’s highest peak, Mount Washington.

In the Midwest, temperatures in Minneapolis aren’t expected to top zero this weekend, and it likely will be in the teens when the ball drops on New Year’s Eve in New York City.

A winter storm warning was in effect for much of Montana, calling for significant snowfall followed by dangerously cold temperatures as 2017 comes to an end.

“People like to think of themselves as being prepared for the weather and things like that,” Billings forecaster Dan Borsum said, “but this one will get your attention.”