RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Ahead of cold temperatures and wind gusts Christmas weekend, preparations are well underway to keep the heat on in homes and serve those without a warm place to stay.

Duke Energy spokesperson Jeff Brooks said wind gusts that are expected to reach 40 or 50 miles an hour Friday could create problems for power lines, but crews work year-round to prepare for winter weather. 

“Any outage when it’s below freezing outside is more than just an inconvenience that’s a necessity,” Brooks said. “In the spring and fall we do a lot of maintenance at power plants and things like that so that they’re ready to perform at these high demand periods like we’re about to experience.”

Although Brooks says bucket trucks can’t go up if winds reach around 30 miles an hour, he says the company is working to put in more “self-healing” technology, that automatically re-routes power to working stations to keep outages as small as possible.

“The electric grid is a machine. It is a machine that is designed to work in very extreme conditions but like any machine there’s always a chance that you could have a part fail,” Brooks said.

But for those who may not even have a warm place to stay, emergency White Flag shelters are being prepped to open Friday night.

“We hit capacity every night for the last four nights that we opened,” Vance Haywood, pastor at St. John’s Metropolitan Community Church said.

On top of three emergency shelters at local churches, organizers are working with the City of Raleigh and Wake County to have overflow space if needed.

“We know people will die if they stay out in that so the white flag shelters are a crucial element to survival during extremely cold weather,” Haywood said.

White flag shelters open up whenever temperatures are expected to drop below 35 degrees overnight.

Shelters will be open Friday through Dec. 27 at the following locations:

  • Unitarian Universal Fellowship of Raleigh at 3313 Wade Avenue (men’s shelter)
  • Open Table United Methodist Church in Raleigh at 824 North Bloodworth Street (women’s shelter)
  • Salvation Army in Raleigh at 1863 Capital Boulevard (families with children)