9-degree night expected

Old Man Winter is returning with a vengeance.

Tonight's temperature is expected to drop to 19 degrees, according to forecasters, and Friday night's low is predicted to dip to 9, bringing one of the area's coldest nights in years.

The last time Augusta saw 9-degree temperatures was Dec. 26, 1983, said Tenia Morrison, of the National Weather Service in West Columbia, S.C.

The record low for Friday is 11 degrees, set in 1977. Today's record low is 12, set in 1893.

Officials are urging people to keep a close eye on the elderly, keep pets indoors, bring in plants and protect exposed pipes.

The weather service suggests wearing several layers of loose-fitting, lightweight clothing. Air is trapped between the layers, and that helps insulate your body. The outer layer should be tightly woven, water repellent and have a hood. You also should wear a hat because half of your body heat is lost through your head, according to the weather service.

Columbia Emergency Services Director Pam Tucker said the county has never had requests for heating shelters, but "we will open shelters ... if there is a power outage or something of that nature."

In Richmond County, homeless shelters are preparing for a busy couple of days.

Rob Frary, of the Garden City Rescue Mission on Fenwick Street, said his shelter averages 40 to 50 people a night. In the coldest conditions, he said, no one is turned away.

He expects his shelter will come close to reaching its capacity of 100 people tonight and Friday night.

Reach Preston Sparks at (706) 823-3338 or preston.sparks@augustachronicle.com

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Cold weather tips

- Allow warm water to trickle from a faucet, preferably one on an outside wall, to prevent pipes from freezing.

- Open cabinet doors so heat can reach uninsulated pipes under sinks and appliances near exterior walls.

- Make sure to turn off automatic sprinkler systems as the water will freeze on roads, causing hazardous driving conditions.

- Try not to overexert yourself; your heart is working overtime in cold weather and hard labor could cause a further strain. Sweating also could lead to a chill or even hypothermia.

- Make sure your car has a good supply of antifreeze. It's suggested that you change out the antifreeze every one to two years.

- Wipe up any spills of antifreeze; it is a deadly poison and has a sweet taste that might attract animals.

Sources: Columbia County Emergency Services Director Pam Tucker, National Weather Service, www.advanceautoparts.com