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St. Louis Officials Move To Help Homeless Survive Arctic Chill

Joseph Leahy / St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay (center) urges homeless residents to seek shelter before sub-zero temperatures arrive.

St. Louis City officials are mobilizing to protect the city's homeless population as an arctic weather front is forecast to plunge the region into sub-zero temperatures late this weekend.

The National Weather Service says a winter storm could dump nearly a foot of snow on the St. Louis area by Sunday evening. The overnight low temperature on Sunday is forecast to reach -8 degrees with daytime highs on Monday peaking near -2 degrees.

Mayor Francis Slay says the city will begin staffing the its emergency operations center Saturday at 3 p.m. to coordinate safety efforts and is urging any person without adequate shelter to go to one of the city’s warming centers

"Even a short time out in the deep freeze can cause permanent injury or even death,” he said. “This is true for people and pets. We're going to be having teams going out throughout the city looking for both -- looking for people who don't have a place to lay their head at night and also looking animals being neglected in this cold weather."

Slay says companion animals left outside will be impounded with their owners cited for abuse or neglect.

Human Services Director Bill Siedhoff says the city will also be trying to help anyone who refuses to come in from the cold.  

"Those individuals who prefer to stay outside, they're provided blankets,” he said. “We're going to have the police department checking on those individuals throughout the night - after 10 o'clock to make sure those individuals are okay."

The city's Health Department is reminding other residents to avoid exposure to low temperatures for extended periods of time, especially at-risk populations, such as the elderly, those with functional needs, people with pre-existing health conditions, and small children.