Shelters available as temperatures plunge

It may be running a little late, but winter is definitely on its way to the Rio Grande Valley, and don’t expect to see the sun for a few days.

Continued precipitation is in the picture through early Monday and there’s even a chance for wintry mix. As far as exactly what to expect beyond cold and wet, it’s complicated, said Brian Mejia, meteorologist with the National Weather Service Brownsville/RGV station.

“We do know that it is going to be pretty chilly and downright cold in the mornings, especially between Sunday night and Tuesday morning,” he said. “That’s when we expect the coldest temperatures to occur.”

The Mercedes Safe Dome will open its doors for individuals seeking shelter from the harsh cold front that arrived Thursday morning, according to a tweet from Hidalgo County.

From Saturday through Monday, the Mercedes Safe Dome will begin accepting individuals from 8 p.m. through midnight, with shelter hours running from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m.

In addition to following COVID-19 precautions, the dome will be operating with limited capacity due to the pandemic.

Officials say if there are no occupants, the shelter will be demobilized at midnight on the aforementioned days. The shelter is located at 1202 N. Vermont Ave. in Mercedes.

On Saturday, Mission will open a shelter, when the wind chill temperature is expected to dip into the 20s, city officials announced in a news release Thursday.

The cold weather shelter will open at the Mission Parks & Recreation building, 721 N. Bryan Road, at 3 p.m. Saturday, and will be open until 10 a.m. Tuesday.

The city of Pharr will also open a shelter Friday evening in response to the freezing weather forecast for this weekend.

The city will open the shelter at 7 p.m. Friday at the Vanguard Academy Gymnasium located at 1200 East Kelly Ave. in Pharr. The shelter will remain open until 10 a.m. Tuesday.

“The City of Pharr is proud to partner with Vanguard Academy to provide our citizens in need with a warm shelter during these extreme temperatures,” Pharr Mayor Ambrosio Hernandez said in a news release. “We want to make sure that everyone who needs a warm and safe place to stay makes their way to our shelter. Please make sure to plan accordingly as there is limited capacity.”

The shelter is not limited to Pharr citizens, but will be available on a first come, first serve basis.

Anyone seeking shelter is encouraged to bring blankets, pillows, food and snacks, and any prescription medication they may need. The city will provide cots for sleeping. Pets will not be allowed.

The shelter will be following COVID-19 safety protocols, including COVID-19 screening for guests, temperature checks, expanded space to allow physical distancing, hygiene access and increased sanitation guidelines. Face masks will be required.

The NWS forecast for the Lower Valley indicates temperatures will slide under the freezing mark early Monday and Tuesday morning. Rain chances range between 20 and 50 percent though early Monday, with the sun expected to at least say hello on Tuesday.

As for the frozen or freezing precipitation that could be in store for Monday, Mejia said he feels fairly confident that not everyone in the Valley will see it, if it does happen. In fact, the icy stuff may skip the Lower Valley altogether, he said.

“It’s just going to be limited to northern ranch lands and western parts of the Rio Grande Valley,” Mejia said.

The last time anything frozen came from the sky in the Valley is when snow fell in December 2017. In January 2014 and February 2011, ice storms covered much of the region in a beautiful, treacherous icy glaze.