ALBANY, GA (WALB) - South Georgia is bracing for a dangerously cold night, with temperatures possibly dipping into the low 20's.
Shelters are making preparations and firefighters are ready for any problems additional heating sources may create, because heating fires are the second leading cause of all house fires.
You can expect the thermometer to fall to a chilly 26º before it gets any warmer. If you're out tonight, you want to make sure you're bundled up. If you have plants outside you want to survive they need to be covered, and if your pipes are left unprotected, you could have a mess.
Chilly temperatures caused many people to pull the winter coats out of the closet. It's expected to be a busy night at places like the Albany Rescue Mission and the Salvation Army's shelter.
"Obviously we try to prepare by making sure all the bed are ready to go we try to make sure all the space are here. We try to make sure our staff has all the extra blankets and pillows and sheets to make sure everything is ready to go. We obviously prepare a couple of extra meals, we're obviously going to see our meal count increase," said Captain Doug McClure of the Salvation Army.
Anytime the temperatures drop below freezing the shelters take in as many people as they can, but the Salvation Army has just 42 beds and has been two thirds full the last several nights. Some may chose to seek shelter in some of Albany's 60 boarded up vacant homes. Code enforcement has worked hard over the last several months to secure those building and wants the community's help watching them.
"We don't want people in the properties no, and that's why we're working so hard to get them secure. Occasionally they'll breech the boards," said Code Enforcement Director Mike Tilson.
That's why they've set up a hotline and urge residents to call it or police. They want to prevent the possibility to fires that could endanger the community.
"When you're cold, you'll find any means necessary to stay warm and if that means setting a fire into a vacant property that you don't even own," said Albany Fire Chief James Carswell.
But if you're not careful inside your own home with portable heaters you could create a problem as well, any space heater that requires fuel should be filled outside, and never use it as a sole heating source.
"Never use a stove to warm your place if you're using a space heater remember it's designed strictly to heat a small space and when you're trying to heat a large area it never cycles off and cools off so be real careful with it and when you go to bed at night be sure to turn it all off," Carswell says.
On a night like this, pets can also get frostbite or even hypothermia. Small dogs should be brought inside. Don't leave them in a car, it can act like a refrigerator. If you have a larger dog you can't bring inside, you need to make sure they have a shelter with plenty of insulation, that includes straw or blankets.
Cats left outside will likely look for a warm place to sleep so be careful when you start the car in the morning.
More cold air is on the way this weekend before temperatures return closer to normal by Thanksgiving Day.