By TRAVIS LOLLER
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Many people were staying home as subfreezing temperatures forced the closure of everything from schools, to senior centers to Goodwill donation trailers in Tennessee.
Even the slopes at Ober Gatlinburg closed early Monday night. The bitter cold and sub-zero wind chills were predicted to continue into Tuesday, but Tennessee cancelled its state of emergency on Monday afternoon.
Tennessee Emergency Management Agency spokesman Jeremy Heidt said the agency had received no requests for assistance from the counties, and there had been no major power outages or road blockages. The agency was still advising people to stay indoors.
Meanwhile, cities across the state were taking extra precautions to find shelter for those who had nowhere to go in the cold.
In Nashville, both the city was operating special hotlines to connect people to shelter, and the Union Rescue Mission was operating a mobile "cold patrol" van, looking for anyone who might need help.
Churches also were opening their doors, many in cooperation with Nashville nonprofit Room In The Inn. Between churches scattered across the city and a shelter at the nonprofit's main campus, Room In The Inn provided beds for 434 people on Sunday night - the most they have ever helped to shelter in the charity's 28-year history, the nonprofit's Jeff Moles said. They expected to shelter an equal number Monday night.
Larry Comer, who suffers from arthritis, said he doesn't have a place to stay right now, but he was planning to sleep at a church Monday night. During the day, he was staying warm at Room In The Inn, where there are computers, a cafe, a library and classes in subjects such as art and sewing. He also had picked up a "whole bunch" of hand warmers, he said.
In Knoxville, Ginny Weatherstone, CEO of the Volunteer Ministry Center, said that whenever the temperature goes below freezing, the center and two other Knoxville homeless agencies lift their restrictions on who can be there. They call it their "white flag" policy, and the agencies literally put out white flags to signal the change.
"We make sure nobody has to be out in the cold," Weatherstone said.
In Memphis, the city had opened two warming centers that were providing shelter for the homeless along with the Memphis Union Mission and the Salvation Army. The city also was using public buses to provide transportation to the warming centers from the overflowing Union Mission shelter.
Memphis Police were instructed to check on the wellbeing of the homeless and the elderly, and city employees were helping with the outreach.
The National Weather Service issued an advisory for most of the state, with the wind chill through Tuesday expected to make it feel like negative 10 or 15 degrees in Middle and East Tennessee and around zero degrees in the Memphis area.
Forecasters also warned travelers to be cautious as roadways could become snow-covered and slippery.