This weekend’s expected storm, though potentially the biggest in three years, is not expected to necessitate a “Code Blue” declaration, Deb Jones, director of the Office of the Lancaster County Homelessness Coalition, said.
The county’s Emergency Management Authority has been updating her office multiple times a day, and unless something changes, a declaration doesn’t look to be necessary, she said.
The county’s protocol provides for a Code Blue when temperatures are below 20 degrees, wind chill is below zero, or there is “extreme” precipitation. In contrast, overnight lows are expected to be in the high 20s from Friday into Saturday and in the low 30s into Sunday. Precipitation is expected to max out at perhaps 2 inches of snow, likely mixed with rain as temperatures warm.
Under a Code Blue, homeless shelters and related providers make arrangements to expand their capacity and lay in additional supplies such as hot drinks, food, blankets and clothing.
Even absent a major storm, occupancy at county shelters has been high, reflecting the local homelessness and affordable housing crises.
At the Lancaster County Food Hub’s relocated shelter on North Prince Street, capacity has increased from 40 to 60 beds. The Food Hub continues to work to bring on staff to reach the target capacity of 80 beds, Executive Director Paige McFarling said. The recruiting environment is challenging, but the nonprofit has been making steady progress, she said.
Everything else is in place, including the beds themselves, she said. In the event a Code Blue is declared before the shelter is at full staff, and additional capacity is needed, the Food Hub would be able to host additional temporary staff provided through the coalition, she said.