Sunday, June 16, 2024

Icicles in Cambridge’s Baldwin neighborhood. (Photo: Marc Levy)

Cambridge and Somerville are bracing for a snap of extreme cold Thursday, Friday and Saturday in which the National Weather Service warns of wind chills down to negative 30 degrees that could cause frostbite on exposed skin in as little as a half-hour, accompanied by winds of 24 to 29 miles per hour.

Forecasts put temperatures Sunday at a low of 16 degrees to a high of 45, offering a measure of relief, but Somerville officials said residents should be alert to weather dangers through early in the day.

“Wind chills into the minus 50s for northern parts of this region could be the coldest felt in decades,” the National Weather Service said, putting the risk in northern Maine highest at negative 60 degrees early Saturday, which could kill in minutes.

Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey, a Cambridge resident, said Thursday, “We have been in close contact with local leaders and service providers to make sure people are being taking care of during the extreme weather, including having providers available to offer transportation to shelter for those who want it as well as other resources.”


  • Cambridge’s information about extreme cold is here.
  • Somerville’s information about extreme cold is here.

“We encourage anyone who needs a place to stay to accept this offer and spend the night at a safe, warm shelter,” Healey said.

The city’s police confirmed they would be working to find unhoused people and get them indoors. Cambridge police said they were coordinating with partners to bring in two additional outreach officers Saturday, and that the fire department, paramedic units and First Step Street Outreach team would be increasing staffing and stepping up efforts as well, including to “provide resources to those who do not wish to go inside.” Members of the public who see unsheltered persons in Cambridge can call the team at (617) 592-6895 or call 911 for a medical emergency.

Somerville police said they would conduct “ongoing patrols to seek unsheltered persons and will coordinate with emergency medical services and local shelter staff to provide transport to area shelters, emergency rooms or other shelter. They will also be distributing warm clothing and warming supplies.” Officers urged residents to call 911 for unsheltered people or other emergencies.

Sheltering

Homeless shelters in Cambridge are expanding capacity Friday and Saturday and many “will also be operating during daytime hours to allow residents to stay and to allow additional individuals access – where possible – during the day,” Cambridge officials said. The City’s Winter Warming Center in the basement of the Citywide Senior Center, 806 Massachusetts Ave., Central Square, will stay open Saturday and the Salvation Army’s Drop-in Center, 402 Massachusetts Ave., is extending hours to be open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

The Cambridge Police Department lobby at 125 Sixth St., East Cambridge near Kendall Square, is also open for people who need a place to escape the cold, officials said. Cambridge Public Libraries welcomed all to stay for as long as they wanted during open hours.

In Somerville, libraries would hold normal business hours but “may be used for warming,” officials said, noting that all Parks & Recreation and Somerville Public Schools programming is canceled Saturday. Mayor Katjana Ballantyne and Emergency Management staff “urge all community members to take precautions to keep themselves and others safe,” they said. “Please also check on the elderly and persons with disabilities.”

Schools

While the Community Charter School of Cambridge announced plans to close Friday because of the cold, Cambridge Public Schools starting Wednesday told parents only to “dress your child warmly and in layers” and said its buildings would be heated overnight so they are warm when students and staff arrive. Principals will decide whether recess will be held outdoors, district officials said.

Caregivers who have children “in immediate need of a coat, gloves, hat or shoes” were urged to contact school family liaison or visit The Spot Cambridge, a clothing swap, for free clothing and other items. You can order online here.

Somerville school officials gave a reminder Thursday to caregivers to “please ensure that students come to school dressed in warm clothing such as a winter jacket, hats, gloves and warm boots” and to talk to school administrators or a family liaison if support was needed for any of those items. “The safety and health of our students is our top priority and we want to ensure that students are properly dressed in the cold weather for walking to and from school and for outside recess if the weather permits,” they said.

Public transportation

The MBTA said it too was preparing for extreme cold weather conditions beginning Friday and lasting throughout the weekend, with officials “closely monitoring potential impacts to service and infrastructure.”

“Crews will be ready to respond to any issues” while the MBTA operates trains and buses at or near regular schedules, they said. “Riders should anticipate that delays may occur due to the extreme cold conditions.”

Riders were encouraged to visit MBTA.com/winter for updated service information.


This post was updated Feb. 3, 2023, at the request of Cambridge Public Schools to show that parents were told as early as Wednesday to dress their kids warmly for Friday’s chill.