The Port Alberni Shelter has issued an extreme weather alert for the Alberni Valley this weekend.
The Weather Network is forecasting temperatures at –1 Celsius and scattered flurries, with less than one centimetre of accumulation. But it’s enough to put people living on the streets in danger, Port Alberni Shelter administrator Wes Hewitt said.
Shelters in Nanaimo and Duncan were also following his lead, he said.
“People aren’t that well prepared at this point in the season. We’d rather be safe than sorry. We try in this community to err on the side of caution.
“The last thing we want to do is see someone outside and they expire due to hypothermia,” he said.
An extreme weather alert means Hewitt can offer accommodation to more people at the shelter. He can bring out extra beds that aren’t used during warmer weather, and can issue people cots and mats on the floor—whatever meets their needs.
The extreme weather program operates under the auspices of the provincial Assistance to Shelter Act and runs from Nov. 1 to March 31. While many communities use temperatures as a hard and fast rule to enact the alert, Port Alberni Shelter does not; Hewitt will assess the weather forecast and determine whether an alert is needed. Last year, for example, when the Valley experienced heavy rain and flooding, but not cold weather, an alert was issued.
He said the shelter operated under extreme weather conditions for approximately 60 days last year.
Enacting an extreme weather alert allows the RCMP to assist people in getting shelter, Hewitt explained. The RCMP will open a file and will track any contact they have in the community based on the alert.
“They are extremely good in this community,” he said of the RCMP. “No matter if it’s extreme weather or not. No matter what time of year, the RCMP will bring people in distress to the shelter.”