As cold looms, those without power at risk

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Chilly temperatures could turn "life-threatening" for residents -- particularly the elderly and the frail -- as they are forced to brave the cold without any heat, officials said Thursday.

They're asking the Red Cross and local municipalities across Long Island to open warming centers and are pressing LIPA to restore power more quickly.

They're also concerned that many residents, cut off from television, radio and cellphones, have no way of finding out where to go for help.

Nassau Legis. Dave Denenberg (D-Merrick), who didn't have power Thursday, said options are slim for those without heat.

In North Hempstead, officials will encourage senior citizens to seek shelter in one of seven locations this weekend.

"We want to make sure they at least have the information available to go to a shelter," said Sid Nathan, town spokesman. "That's our biggest concern."

A spokesman for the National Weather Service said nighttime temperatures will dip into the mid-30s this weekend.

Suffolk Legis. DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville) said residents should stay with family or friends, adding that there are currently no plans to go door to door to check on the vulnerable.

The Lindenhurst library will be open for residents who want to warm up or charge their phones, and Lindenhurst High School will also serve as a warming center, said Suffolk Legis. Wayne Horsley (D-Babylon).

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Eric Klinenberg, professor of sociology at New York University, wrote a book about a 1995 heat wave in Chicago that killed more than 700 people. The old and poor made up 70 percent of the deaths, he said. Klinenberg said social isolation and frequency of extreme weather events could be a fatal combination. He's concerned about area residents will fare in the storm's aftermath.

"I'm very worried about what's happening to old and frail people who are alone and isolated -- out of sight while the rest of the city moves on," he said, speaking of Sandy's aftermath. "If you have a family member, friend or neighbor who is alone and vulnerable, you need to check in on them. If you are far away, you need to call the authorities and demand someone does."

Chicago has improved its outreach since then, working with health care providers, senior centers and meal delivery groups to create lists of the vulnerable who asked to be looked in on in an emergency, he said.

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