As much of the East and South endure extremely cold, life-threatening temperatures on Tuesday, churches across the region are offering much-needed shelter and rest for stranded passengers and those without a place to stay.
The Weather Prediction Center on Tuesday announced that "dangerously cold arctic air" has overtaken the eastern two thirds of the nation, with wind chill and hard freeze warnings in effect for much of the Deep South, and temperatures reaching to as low as -20F and even -50F in some places.
CNN reported that at least 15 deaths have been blamed on the cold so far, while close to 500 passengers were stranded on Amtrak trains overnight in northern Illinois.
With such dangerous conditions outside, churches across eastern and southern America have been opening their doors to homeless people and families desperately in need of a place to stay.
"Based on our conversation with the fire marshal, we're allowed to take in 10 additional people on nights when the weather is severe," said Bigger Vision Community Shelter Executive Director Ed Moore in Athens, Ga., on Monday. "We also are doing what we can to allow people to stay in our space a little longer so they are not out in the cold in the early morning."
The shelter is expanding operating hours, The Athens Banner Herald reported on Monday, noting that temperatures are falling into the single digits in the region.
Athens First United Methodist Church also announced that it will be able to take in those who had to be turned away by Bigger Vision or the local Salvation Army because of full occupancy.
"This location will be open to those in need tonight and Tuesday evening and this is only in response to the inclement weather," the Rev. Betsy Butler explained.
Elsewhere in the country, Lafayette's Faith Community Center in Indiana offered its services on Sunday to 56 stranded bus passengers who were heading to Chicago.
"They really helped us a lot. Shower, excellent. Clean towels. They made sure we had plenty of snacks. This is a place to come. They're going to take care of you," said passenger Nycole Harris, who stayed at the shelter along with her 3-year-old son, A'Mari Andrews, according to the Journal & Courier.
Director of community ministries Andre Ballard said that she liked being able to help out those in need.
"I got a good one hour of sleep," Ballard said. "So I may need a bit more coffee. But it's great to be in a position to address the need."
And in Sioux City, Iowa, The Gospel Mission was offering people seeking shelter from the -40F with wind chill temperatures a place to stay on Monday.
"Of course it's nice to know, I'm not sleeping under a bridge. You know people who sleep under bridges don't have that opportunity," said Robert Cowan, who has spent several years at the Gospel Mission, according to KTIV.
"People got to survive. People don't have a place to go to. They got to do the best they can," he added.
The good news according to The Weather Channel is that temperatures should rise back up this weekend, with highs reaching the 40s near the southern Great Lakes region, and the 50s near New York and Philadelphia.