Escaping the cold in La Crosse

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LA CROSSE, Wis. (WEAU) -- La Crosse County is under a public health alert until noon on Wednesday.

Brenda Lutz-Hanson with the La Crosse County Health Department said a shelter is open at the La Crosse Center's South Hall until noon Wednesday, because of the frigid temperatures.

"This is over and above what we're normally used to, and it is extremely dangerous," said Lutz-Hanson.

Volunteers from the La Crosse Area Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster are helping at the shelter.

"It really is about the collaborative nature of this community," said La Crosse Area VOAD chair Reverend Ellen Rasmussen.

Rasmussen said pets are welcome on a case by case basis.

She says individuals and families can come and get warm there at any time.

"We are anticipating that there may be more people here tonight as the cold sustains," said Rasmussen.

In addition to having a place to sleep the shelter at the La Crosse Center's South Hall also has food, drinks and books to read.

The La Crosse Warming Center at First Baptist Church is also open.

Normally, the center is allowed to have a maximum of 15 people.

However, the city is allowing the center to hold double its normal capacity Monday and Tuesday nights, because of the cold.

La Crosse Warming Center coordinator Mary Fitzpatrick said it's hard to say whether more people will come in, because sometimes if someone stays with a friend during the day, they'll also stay with them at night.

"We want to be prepared and it's wonderful to be able to house thirty if the need arises," said Fitzpatrick.

The La Crosse Warming Center will be open from 7 p.m. until 7 a.m. Monday and Tuesday nights.

However, it doesn't take pets.

The Salvation Army in La Crosse will also be able to accommodate more people at its shelter.

It has daytime and evening hours, but also doesn't take pets.

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