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Freezing temps, power outage sends people to Salvation Army shelter

Getting ready for a game of cards while passing the time Friday, Jan. 16, at a warming shelter set up at the Salvation Army, in Huntington, are (from left) Berniece Moore, Nancy Moore and Ellen Fisher.
Photo by Cindy Klepper.

Berniece Moore covered herself with newspapers to stay warm.

Roy Graff stuck his head under his blankets.

Nancy Moore got so cold that her head hurt and her feet ached.

"That's when I called for help," Nancy Moore says. "I called the police, and they called HAT. As quick as I called them, they came and got me."

HAT - Huntington Area Transportation - rescued her and several dozen others from their frosty homes Thursday and Friday, Jan. 15 and 16, as temperatures plummeted and a widespread power outage turned about 1,700 Huntington residences into refrigerators.

Their destination was The Salvation Army, where a hastily-established warming shelter offered a bowl of soup and a blanket.

The shelter opened late Thursday evening at the request of Huntington County Red Cross Director Mike Rohler.

"Mike asked me, ‘How soon can you be ready?'" says Salvation Army Capt. Tim Sell. "I said 30 minutes. And then I called my wife and told her, ‘You are now the command post.'"

Sell and the Red Cross assembled a group of volunteers to operate the shelter.

"When our congregation hears that they're needed, they come a-running," Sell says.

Cots showed up from the Emergency Management Agency, the Red Cross sent some blankets and the Salvation Army opened up its food pantry to feed its unexpected guests.

"I'm just thankful for this place," says Nancy Moore, who lives at Cedar Run Apartments in Huntington.

Fourteen people, including Parkview Apartments resident Austin Burnworth, spent Thursday night at the shelter. Burnworth bunked on a cot in the basement of The Salvation Army. It was a little chilly, he says, but better than staying at home. On Friday, Burnworth brought his 2-1/2-month-old Yorkie, Shaggy, with him to the shelter.

Sell, a self-described "conservative guy," says he wasn't sure at first about bringing animals into the shelter but decided that having the animals there would be better than having people refuse to come because they didn't want to leave their pets at home.

"I said, OK, we'll have a petting section and a non-petting section, a smoking section and a non-smoking section," he says.

Only a few people ended up bringing pets, he says, and most brought crates for the animals.

Word about the shelter was spread Thursday night through area television and radio stations. Friday morning, police and Emergency Management staffers knocked on doors at apartment complexes to tell people about the shelter.

"They hunkered down and took care of each other" overnight, Sell says of the apartment residents. "A small town isn't measured by numbers. A small town is measured by how you take care of each other."

Graff, who lives at Parkview Apartments, says the cold woke him up about 10:00 Friday morning.

"I went to Berniece's house," he says. "Pam (Weaver, who also lives at Parkview Apartments) suggested we come down here."

"I grabbed my bag of sewing, my cards and a puzzle book," Berniece Moore says.

Berniece Moore's sister and brother-in-law, Ellen and Spencer Fisher, who live at Carriage Place Apartments, joined the group at The Salvation Army. They spent the day "playing cards, visiting, looking at magazines."

On Friday, Sell says, about 25 people were taking advantage of the shelter.

Duke Energy says power was restored to all Huntington residents by 2:43 p.m. Friday.