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Power outage sends dozens to shelter

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Emergency shelter available at Civic Center

By Linda Ireland

As power outages spread across LaRue County last week, residents began searching for alternative heat sources.

Some stood in lines at stores, waiting to fill containers with kerosene for portable heaters. Others purchased firewood or propane heaters. Others drove several hours to neighboring states in hopes of finding a heater.

Some moved in with friends or relatives. And when all else failed, they sought refuge from the American Red Cross.

A temporary shelter was set up in the Hodgenville Elementary School gym Wednesday. Red Cross volunteer and shelter manager Clare Mae Druen said more than 1,000 meals were served during the week. The shelter was moved Monday to the Hodgenville Civic Center  so the school would be ready for students to return to class.

As of Monday afternoon, 129 people took advantage of the facility. Many others stopped in for a warm meal.

Wanda Graham said her home on Old L&N Turnpike in Magnolia lost power about 10 a.m. Jan. 27. She and husband Gary moved in with relatives, Larry and Teresa Graham of South L&N Turnpike. Their home lost power about 6 p.m.

Teresa Graham said they had tried to locate a generator in Elizabethtown – but stores were out. Larry Graham said motel rooms were booked up.

The two families learned of the temporary shelter at HES Wednesday morning and were the first of many to arrive.

“We had to get the limbs out of the driveway before we came,” said Wanda.

The Red Cross provided cots and pallets in the school gym as it became obvious power would not be restored quickly, said Druen. The cots were set up by inmates, who assisted volunteers the rest of the day.

The shelter did not accept pets, so Wanda and Gary had to leave their four dogs in the basement of their home.

“They’ll huddle up and keep warm,” she said. “We left them plenty of blankets.”

“I’m just glad we have a warm place to go to,” said Teresa Graham.

In the cafeteria, district food service manager Dee Ann Sanders and HES food service manager Shelia Skaggs prepared chili and pimento cheese sandwiches for the displaced families. The two were named emergency contacts by the Department of Agriculture “a couple of days ago” for incidents like the ice storm, said Sanders.

“It’s kind of ironic this has happened,” Sanders said.

The school system notified many people of the shelter’s availability through the one-call system.

Druen said a recent shipment of commodity food to the school came in handy.

“Thank the Lord we had some on hand,” she said, “because other shelters and stores are running out (of food).”

Showers were made available at the HES shelter and middle school.

“The school system has been marvelous,” she added.

Wednesday, about 65 people made it to the shelter on their own, or been transported by volunteer firefighters. Sixteen others stopped by for a hot meal.

Thursday night, 71 people stayed the night in the gym.

“We’ve got ages 8 months to 80 years – people who live alone – people who have never been around children,” said Druen.

Despite the personality differences, things went smoothly for the most part, she said.

“People are just grateful to have a warm place and get a shower,” she said.

Residents were brought in from Carter Brothers Road, Greensburg Street and Landmark Apartments.

Sarah Snook of Ford Road in Mt. Sherman and eight family members took advantage of the shelter Wednesday. Snook supervised her younger brothers and sisters playing basketball in the gym.

Natasha Darden and her two small children learned about the shelter through a note left on their front door on Polley Avenue. Savannah, 1, and Jasmine, 2, snacked on pastries while Natasha contacted friends and family by cell phone.

Others worked puzzles, played games, watched movies, kept tabs on the weather by watching television or took smoke breaks outside the gym.

Druen did her best to accommodate the guests. When Wendell Sizemore asked for a deck of playing cards, Druen picked up the phone and found someone to deliver a pack to the gym.

Druen was on hand each day and spent two nights at the shelter as well. By Monday afternoon, she seemed exhausted, but pleased with the overall accomodations.

“You know, these Red Cross cots are not bad,” she said.

Families began leaving the shelter as power was restored to their homes. About 12 people were still at the civic center shelter Monday. First Baptist Church was providing a meal.

The shelter will be open until it is no longer needed, Druen said.