Cold-weather advisories issued; shelter to open today, Tuesday

A shelter is opening in Biloxi tonight to help the homeless avoid temperatures that are expected to dip as low as 29 degrees, and the Biloxi Fire Department is reminding homeowners to be careful if they are using space heaters.

The National Weather Service has issued a hard freeze warning for this evening through Tuesday morning. The warning means sub-freezing temperatures are imminent or likely. Exposed water pipes should be wrapped with insulating material to avoid freezing or bursting; and pets and plants should be given protection from the cold.

A cold weather shelter will be open today and Tuesday from 5 p.m. until 8 a.m. at the Back Bay Mission at 1016 Division St. in Biloxi.

The shelter will be operated by the Back Bay Mission and Mississippi Gulf Coast chapter of the American Red Cross. Coast Transit Authority will provide transportation to the shelter, and Feed My Sheep will serve meals this evening and tomorrow morning. The Red Cross also will be accepting donation of coats and jackets at the shelter.

Meantime, the Biloxi Fire Department, which sees an increase in emergency calls when the weather turns cold, is asking residents to remember the rules of using space heaters and fire places.

“We average from 120 to 150 calls a week, and last week went up to 150 calls,” Fire Chief David Robert said. “It ended up being about a 15 percent increase, and it’s weather-related, either homeowners pushing the envelope on trying to stay warm or homeless setting fires in woods or vacant structures.”

A leading cause of fires this time of year is the misuse of space heaters, fire officials say.

“Do not use extension cords with space heaters,” says Mark Dronet, the department’s deputy chief for fire prevention. “Space heaters also should be at least three feet from any combustibles, and you should not leave a space heater unattended or operating while you are sleeping.”

Other advice: Candles should never be left unattended, and those homeowners with fireplaces should remember to have fireplaces and chimneys serviced by professionals.

Said Dronet: “There are also things that homeowners themselves can do. For instance, clean out your gutters. If any embers manage to escape from your chimney, they may land on your roof and find their way into your gutters, where they could ignite leaves or pine straw. That’s also the case with firewood. Don’t stack it next to your home. Have it at least 30 feet away.”

More online

Winter tips: To see winter fire safety tips from the Biloxi Fire Department,
click here.

The forecast: To see the seven-day forecast and the current weather advisories, click here.