Coldest temperatures in two years hit region

The temperature hit freezing at midnight, and it only kept dropping as the sun came up.

Residents throughout the Washington area bundled up Tuesday in their warmest winter coats, scarves, mittens and insulated socks for the coldest day the region has endured in two years.

Temperatures dropped from 32 degrees at midnight to 25 degrees by the afternoon, with a wind chill of 13 degrees.

Source: National Weather Service

Tips to combat the cold weather
» Layer loose, lightweight clothes, leaving no area exposed. Mittens are warmer than gloves.
» Make sure to wear a warm hat -- half your body heat loss can come from the head.
» Senior citizens are especially at risk, as more than 50 percent of cold-related injuries happen to people older than 60.
» Keep all flammable objects at least 3 feet from heating sources like furnaces, fireplaces and space heaters.
» Make sure all heaters are properly ventilated, and check your smoke alarms before using them.
» Store emergency equipment like nonperishable food, extra clothing, a first aid kit and a flashlight in your car.

And the winter blast is going to hang around: The cold spell is expected to last through the weekend -- with highs in the 20s and lows in the teens -- before letting up next week, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Brian LaSorsa.

"I wouldn't be surprised to see some flurries or even some light snow Wednesday night," LaSorsa said, adding that snow and the dreaded "wintry mix" are being forecast for Friday.

Alejandro Garcia braved the freezing temperatures Tuesday as he worked more than eight hours on the National Mall breaking down the jungle of scaffolding, bleachers and portable toilets left over from Inauguration Day.

"If you stand a few minutes, you feel cold," Garcia said. "So you keep working."

Charles Brister, who traveled from Los Angeles for the inauguration, said his former job on an oil tanker in Alaska made him more acclimated to the cold than the average Southern Californian.

"I bought some snow boots and insulated socks," he said. "I was prepared."

Brister even went out for a morning run around the track at Prince George's Community College.

"I've got to keep moving," he said. "That's the key."

Local fire and emergency medical services departments are preparing for a busy few days. When the temperature drops this low, the chance of fires and medical emergencies increases, according to Mark Brady, a spokesman for the Prince George's County Fire/EMS Department.

"It's important to remember to give the space heater space -- and that goes for furnaces and fireplaces, too," Brady said. "The biggest problem we see is that combustible materials like furniture or paper are placed close to these heating sources."

He added that residents could start to see sprinkler systems and pipes freeze over the next few days.

The District issued a hypothermia alert, meaning that residents should take care when outside and that homeless people must be housed overnight.

The cold spell means higher heating costs and potentially more home maintenance, too. Dana Sauer, president of Temp-A-Tron Inc., a heating company in Northern Virginia, said he is booked with service requests through next Wednesday.

"When the cold weather hits, that's when everybody starts calling," Sauer said. "But this isn't as bad as during the summer when everybody's A/C units cut out."

Taylor Holland contributed to this report.