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Coates: Watch for needy in cold

Twelve hours before a homeless man's frozen body was found Monday morning in front of the Catholic bishop's residence, Fargo City Commissioner Linda Coates called police to check on someone out in the elements.

Linda Coates

Twelve hours before a homeless man's frozen body was found Monday morning in front of the Catholic bishop's residence, Fargo City Commissioner Linda Coates called police to check on someone out in the elements.

The woman, wearing a dark hood and lightweight-looking jacket, leaned against the wall of the 10th Street underpass at Main Avenue. Her arms were crossed and her head was down, Coates wrote in her blog at www.areavoices.com

"I said, 'This doesn't look good, grabbed my cell phone and dialed 911,' " she wrote.

After hearing about Vernon Weigand's death, Coates called Police Chief Keith Ternes to ask about the person she had reported.

"I had that horrible feeling the next day," she said Wednesday.


The cases were different. Officers arrived eight minutes after her call and took a severely intoxicated woman to detox. Ternes was out of the office Wednesday.

Fargoans are pretty good about calling police to check on people they think need help, police Lt. Joel Vettel said.

"We get those quite often, in these temperatures, whether they feel somebody might be in distress, or somebody playing outside and they're not properly dressed," he said.

Several people called in Tuesday to report a little boy walking by himself outside in the cold, Vettel said.

It turned out the 5-year-old boy had missed the school bus and was trying to walk home. When police found him, they said they had to call his mother. The boy burst into tears.

"He didn't want us to call her," Vettel said.

In cold weather, police receive calls for help with shelter nightly, Vettel said.

Some come from concerned residents or business owners where people in need go to get out of the cold. Other times police on patrol find people, or those in need of shelter call in.


Police cannot force someone to receive assistance, but if a person asks police will always help, Vettel said.

Those who are drinking can use the detox center, Vettel said.

If they're sober, homeless shelters that are full sometimes bend the rules, he said.

Sometimes police find a relative or family member for someone to stay with. Officers will even give the person a ride, he said.

"We never turn a person down in the extreme cold," Vettel said. "We will find them a way to find a place to stay."

An emergency shelter being constructed at 1519 1st Ave. S. is slated for completion in February. The shelter will accept people who have been drinking.

Centre Inc., which offers detox services for the city, will move into the building later this spring.

Coates, who is involved with the sometimes-controversial project, said she wrote the blog to encourage people to call 911 if they see someone outside who appears to need help.


"I guess I wanted to make the point that even if you disagree with the approach we're taking ... be on the lookout," she said.

Bitterly cold weather likely to linger in area

Dangerous wind chills from 25 to 40 below are expected to embrace the Red River Valley tonight and Friday, according to the National Weather Service in Grand Forks, N.D.

Snow, wind and arctic conditions likely will persist through the weekend, creating travel problems for motorists, the weather service said Wednesday.

"The coldest air of the winter season will plunge into the Northern Plains Thursday night," the weather service warned.

Area residents are warned to prepare for hazardous weather and travel with a winter survival kit.

Weather conditions created icy roads throughout the region Wednesday, prompting emergency crews to respond to numerous accidents, including a semi driver whose trailer jackknifed on westbound Interstate 94 in Wilkin County, Minn.

Branimir Sutton, 52, of Holt, Mich., suffered serious injuries, according to the Minnesota State Patrol.


Troopers responded to the accident about 9 a.m. Wednesday and found Sutton unresponsive when they located him in the sleeper of the truck. An ambulance took him to a Fargo hospital. He was not listed as a patient at either MeritCare or Innovis Health Wednesday night, hospital officials said.

Two rollovers were reported between 8 and 8:15 a.m. at Interstate 29 and 52nd Avenue South in Fargo. Several other accidents, including a school bus that slid into a Wilkin County ditch, were reported during the day. None of the accidents resulted in serious injuries.


Cold weather exposure can lead to hypothermia. Infants and the elderly are especially vulnerable to its effects.

What it is:

Prolonged exposure to cold eventually uses your body's stored energy, leading to an abnormally low body temperature.

Body temperature that is too low affects the brain, making the victim unable

to think clearly or move well. Hypothermia is particularly dangerous because a person may not know it is happening.


Warning signs of hypothermia:


- Bright red, cold skin

- Very low energy


- Shivering, exhaustion

- Confusion, fumbling hands

- Memory loss, slurred speech


- Drowsiness

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Readers can reach Forum reporter Andrea Domaskin at (701) 241-5556 Coates: Watch for needy in cold Andrea Domaskin 20080117

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