AUGUSTA — Long underwear was the part of the uniform of the day on Sunday and early Monday.

Without that extra insulation, it was skin-burning cold.

The National Weather Service Forecast Office in Gray showed a low temperature of minus 4 degrees early Monday. Local weather spotters reported readings as low as 11 and 14 degrees below zero.

Ice formed on more of the Kennebec River, and ice-fishing shacks sprouted on the river in Randolph, several of them puffing smoke.

For probably the first time this winter, skaters took to the ice at the seasonal rink at the Calumet Playground on Northern Avenue.

But the surface was rough, dropping off to dirt and grass near the boards.

Inside the Warming Center on Front Street, the temperature was plenty warm and the coffee pot was on. A half dozen people congregated there around noon on Wednesday, chatting, listening to music and deciding which of the donated baked foods to try for lunch.

Generally a midday meal is served at the Bread of Life Soup Kitchen. But Monday was a the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, so people remained at the center instead of going to the kitchen about two blocks away.

“I like it here,” said Melissa Stanley. “It’s nice to go to in the day.”

Stanley said she spends some of each day at the shelter since losing much of her furniture in a Jan. 7 fire at her apartment.

Her salvaged bedroom furniture is in her new apartment, but the living room and kitchen items were destroyed. “Everything burned,” she said. “My microwave melted.”

The people were happy to be in warm quarters where they could play cribbage or chess, do a jigsaw puzzle or read a book.

“It’s a good place for people to come in out of the cold,” said James Duling of Augusta, who volunteers at the center. Duling likes to play cribbage and recently taught someone there to play.

“These are a lot of the people from the neighborhood; some might be homeless but they’re not living on the streets,” said Rob Shore, who heads the Warming Center staff for the Green Street United Methodist Church, which is administering the shelter. He said some people might be staying on couches in friends’ lodgings and coming to the shelter for companionship.

The center has had up to 30 people at one time since its opening two weeks ago.

“On the really cold days, people stay home,” Shore said.

Across the Kennebec on the east side of Augusta, the Bread of Life Shelter remains open during the really cold days so families living there don’t need to relocate.

“Most of them don’t have transportation and it’s so cold they could get frostbite or something,” said Lynn Hendsbee, the shelter’s case manager.

Individuals who also stay at the shelter usually go to a community room at the veterans’ shelter next door, she added.

The shelter routinely houses three to four families as well as a dozen individuals.

“Our numbers are up and we have a turn-away list,” Hendsbee said Monday. “We’re full almost all the times. As soon as someone goes off the list, it gets filled the same day. Just today five to seven people called looking for a bed. We referred them to Waterville or Portland. We just don’t have the room to put anybody.”

Staying indoors might be good advice to follow. The National Weather Service is forecasting snow for overnight Monday and a snow and sleet mix for today.

The same forecast calls for a high of 32 degrees Wednesday under mostly sunny skies, dropping to near zero.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

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