"It's cold outside, and it's going to remain cold for the next several days so it's critical that people keep warm. If you are elderly, or you have an infant 1 year old or younger, or have heart disease or other medical conditions, you really should go to a warm place," Mayor Michael Bloomberg warned at a news conference.
"If you find yourself shivering uncontrollably, or if you see someone who is disoriented, those are symptoms of hypothermia, and anyone with them needs to get [them] to a warm place, covered with blankets, a hot water bottle -- anything you can do to get them warm quickly."
A Nor'easter is forecast to hit the same Northeastern states hit by Hurricane Sandy. The National Weather Service said the storm will not be as severe as the superstorm but will have sustained winds of 30-40 mph and gusts up to 60 mph, and will raise water levels2-4 feet. Power outages are possible and snow is forecast for areas farther north from Long Island and New York City.
The mayor said city employees, the National Guard and volunteers knocked on doors in public housing developments during the weekend to see if people needed help. Many with small children and the elderly were hesitant to leave their homes because of mobility issues, ill health or fear the shelters would not be able to accommodate their needs.
"We began urging residents who might be older or infirm to move to a shelter. Buses at the city's five disaster assistance centers and at several locations in Manhattan and the Bronx will again help people get to shelters," Bloomberg said.
"The New York Police Department officers will use loudspeakers to urge people to go where they can be warm and safe, and tell them how to get there. Helping people keep warm without power on these chilly nights has also become a focus of the food distribution centers we're operating in communities without power."
For those who still do not have power, the state Health Department advised:
-- Do not use a stove or oven as a heat source. An open oven door or lit stove burners can be dangerous and are ineffective as a heat source.
-- Never use grills as an indoor heating source. Charcoal and propane emit carbon monoxide gas and are not suitable for indoor use.
-- Candles are unsafe and ineffective as a heat source. Never leave candles lit in an unattended room or when going to sleep.
-- When using a fireplace, make sure it is properly vented and the chimney is cleaned periodically.
-- Do not burn anything in the fireplace other than firewood and do not leave a fire burning when going to sleep.
If heat goes out during a winter storm, people can keep warm by closing off rooms they don't need, dressing in layers of lightweight clothing and by wearing a hat. If it gets colder, avoid hypothermia by wearing layers of dry clothes, a hat and blankets, but infants and the elderly are especially at risk and they should seek a place with heat, the Health Department said.