A 56-year-old woman died Feb. 4, when temperatures dropped to 27 degrees, a Port Townsend police spokesperson said.
The woman was identified as Cassandra Aldrich.
The woman was at a homeless encampment behind Les Schwab on Sims Way in Port Townsend, said Keppie Keplinger, public information officer for the Port Townsend Police Department. A man at the encampment called 911, Keplinger said.
The death may have been due to hypothermia, Keplinger said.
Jefferson County Chief Civil Deputy Prosecutor Philip Hunsucker, who was acting as deputy coroner at the time, said the cause of death had not yet been confirmed.
“They found her in a sleeping position, and she was cold to the touch,” Hunsucker said.
The Port Townsend Police Department and East Jefferson Fire Rescue responded to the call.
“We responded around 6:05 p.m.,” police Sgt. Garin Williams said. “Someone staying at the camp was the caller. They (EJFR) responded with aid. I got there a few minutes after and had to handle a dog that was there that wasn’t friendly.”
Williams said when he returned to the scene, the woman had been pronounced dead.
Shelter open 24 hours
The homeless shelter at the American Legion, operated by Olympic Community Action Programs, has been open 24 hours a day since temperatures dropped on Feb. 2.
“We have been open since Saturday at 4 p.m., and we haven’t closed at all,” said Mike Johnson, director of the OlyCAP shelter. “We will stay that way until I see temperatures go above 35 degrees.”
The shelter normally can house a total of 34 people ages 18 and older, with 12 women’s beds, 20 men’s beds and two sick rooms. But with temperatures remaining below freezing for the foreseeable future, OlyCAP, COAST and Legion Post 26 will remain open for services 24/7 until the temperatures rise to safe outdoor levels.
The shelter, located at 209A Monroe street, will remain open for any person that does not have a safe and warm place to stay, Johnson said. Warm beverages, showers and a safe space will be provided.
“I open the door to anyone who is nonviolent,” Johnson said. “Anyone that wants to donate food to help out, we would be glad to take in meals.”
Snow affects roads
More than 2 inches of snow fell in some parts of Jefferson County on Feb. 3 and into the morning of Feb. 4.
Jefferson County Public Works road crews hit the streets Sunday and worked through the night.
“Two shifts were brought in for the duration of this week,” said Monte Reinders, director of public works. “With continued cold temperatures, the roads will thaw during the day and then freeze again at night.”
Cold temperatures are expected to continue through the week, according to the National Weather Service, with a chance of more snow showers predicted for Thursday and Friday.
“Remember to slow down, take your time and stay alert,” advised Chelsea Hodgson of the Washington State Patrol. “As the temperatures drop into the evening, those wet and slushy roadways can turn to ice.”
Hodgson reported at least three vehicles spun out on Highway 101 on Feb. 3 near the Mount Walker turnoff near Quilcene.
“If you drive, be prepared so you don’t get stuck, creating potential dangers to yourself and others,” Hodgson said.