Calls to conserve energy, care for homeless resume as bitter cold returns

After a brief and somewhat unexpected warm-up early Monday, bitter cold and blustery winds were returning to the Baltimore area, prompting renewed calls to limit energy usage and look out for the homeless.

Temperatures climbed to 47 degrees by 11 a.m. at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, as much as 10 degrees warmer than had been expected, before a front carrying chilling polar air began moving across the state. The thermometer dipped by midday, to 37 degrees by 2 p.m., with wind gusts up to 30 mph.

A wind chill advisory was set for 1 a.m. to 10 a.m. Tuesday, with temperatures expected to plunge to the lower teens downtown and the lower single digits in the suburbs and wind chills as cold as 10 degrees below zero. Temperatures are expected to again drop into the single digits or lower teens Tuesday and Wednesday nights, with highs in the upper teens Tuesday and mid-20s Wednesday.

PJM Interconnection, operator of the electricity grid that covers Maryland, a dozen other states and the District of Columbia, is expecting possible record-breaking usage for this time of year on Tuesday. For a second cold spell this month, PJM is asking consumers to limit use of lights and appliances during daily peaks from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.

PJM twice broke usage records Jan. 7 when frigid temperatures covered most of the country, including dropping to 3 degrees at BWI, the coldest there in 18 years.

Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot extended a "Code Blue" weather alert through Thursday in anticipation of the cold. The designation frees up extra resources and efforts to shelter the homeless from dangerously cold temperatures, which can lead to frostbite in a matter of minutes or eventually hypothermia.

The Code Blue declaration has been in effect since Tuesday, and the total of 19 Code Blue days to be tallied through Thursday is nearly twice the 10 such declarations made last winter, city health officials said.

An inch or two of snow is meanwhile possible Tuesday for the lower Eastern Shore as a storm crosses the southeastern U.S., though the precipitation is not expected to reach Central Maryland. Winter storm watches and warnings are in effect from New Orleans to North Carolina's Outer Banks.

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