Weather challenges need plan

This region is experiencing a respite from the brutally low temperatures and dangerous wind chills that maintained such a stranglehold during the final weeks of 2017 and the first days of this new year.

It’s still winter, and more bad weather can be expected over the next approximately 90 days.

However, whatever comes central Pennsylvania’s way in the days and weeks ahead hopefully will be more tolerable than the prolonged frigid assault that Old Man Winter has just finished inflicting.

Granted, the bitter cold has been welcomed by many of the people who enjoy outdoor winter activities, but the brutal weather has imposed severe hardships on many more people and entities not ready or willing to greet such conditions with open arms.

Even though most area residents aren’t shivering as much today as they were during the final days preceding Christmas, and then during the days leading up to the past weekend, they should reflect on the tutorial that the nasty conditions provided.

The central conclusion to be acknowledged is that Altoona isn’t as prepared as it could — and should — be for the kind of conditions that the region has just endured.

Reporter Russ O’Reilly provided evidence of the inadequate readiness in an article in last Saturday’s Mirror — about people trying to find shelter from the cold, in some cases unsuccessfully.

Altoona and its environs need a comprehensive examination of how this region can respond better to bad winter weather’s challenges.

Likewise, the death of a woman in northern Cambria County believed to have resulted from hypothermia should be a wake-up call to families to check regularly on the well-being of their relatives, especially the elderly and handicapped.

Anyone who read O’Reilly’s report had to feel sadness for those who endured the conditions here without anywhere to seek shelter, because of no full-scale, coordinated effort on the part of this community to ensure that everyone identified as being in need could find protection from the biting temperatures and winds.

Entities here with facilities capable of protecting those in need of warmth should step forward to offer their help, should another round of arctic-like temperatures bear down on this region.

The article also mentioned the Altoona Parking Authority finding hints of homelessness — a situation that this community and county should abhor.

However, Altoona isn’t the only city in Pennsylvania where homelessness might exist, but this city should be trying to keep ahead of others in having protections available for the homeless and others needing assistance, for whatever reason, during such emergency conditions.

Organize a task force of community and civic leaders plus health and human services professionals to make a thorough study of what occurred in recent days and produce recommendations on how troubling situations like those can be minimized or averted not only during the rest of this winter but in winters ahead.

This part of central Pennsylvania is regarded as a great place to live, but it can be even better if a well-thought-out plan of action is in place for dealing with unusual, potentially deadly conditions like this area has just experienced.

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