City officials are expected to designate today a "Code Blue," because of the frigid weather blanketing the region.
But that terminology will not pack the same meaning as it used to. No extra shelters are scheduled to open, as had been the case under previous Code Blue designations.
Instead, the city plans to run vans today for those needing to escape what should be one of the coldest days of the year, with the temperature expected to dip into the teens with the wind chill.
Vans will take passengers to the city's winter shelter, an old school in the 1600 block of Guilford Ave. that opened late last year and houses more than 300 people a night. Four other shelters that had been open in previous years when the temperature fell below 32 degrees have all closed.
The Guilford shelter remains open 24 hours a day during the winter.
"That's how we'll handle it," said Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, the city health commissioner. "If we get extra people, we'll have to move them somewhere. We're definitely getting close to filling up the shelter."
Nikole Listemaa, senior forecaster for the National Weather Service in Sterling, Va., said today's high is expected to be in the low 30s, about 10 degrees lower than normal. The low is forecast near 20.
Sharfstein said the weather is cold enough that residents should take similar safety precautions as when the temperatures are in the 90s and the city goes into Code Red.
"That's the same thing here," Sharfstein said. "We urge people to check on their neighbors."