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Red Cross cooling shelter offers assistance to residents without power

July 3, 2012

Diana Kempton Rhodes, Cindy Owings Waugh and Sara Owings help hand out Kentucky Fried Chicken to visitors at the cooling center Tuesday. (Photos by Megan Exline)

By Megan Exline

Commoner Journal Staff Writer

McARTHUR – Local officials set up a cooling center at Vinton County Middle School for county residents dealing with the aftermath of Friday’s storm.

The storm knocked out power not just to more than 5,000 Vinton County residents, but also to millions of people across the Eastern United States. The width path of the storm’s damage resulted in long delays getting power restored.

With heat advisories issued every day since Friday, and no electricity to power fans or air conditioners, residents were left little options for cooling off.

Southeastern Ohio Red Cross, with the assistance of county officials, stepped in to offer a cool place for residents to relax.

Red Cross Frontline Supervisor Cheryl Cox said that it opened Saturday as a daytime cooling shelter. The shelter was open all night Sunday, but only one resident used it at that time. Since then, the shelter has been open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.

The center offers snacks, games for children, meals, showers and a place charge cellphones. People in the community have helped donate food and water. The St. Francis Center donated buns, rolls, pies and cakes. Sojourners donated activity bags for children to keep them entertained during the power outage. The Department of Human Services donated 140 cases of water, and the Chillicothe Walmart also donated several cases of water.

Red Cross Frontline Supervisor Cheryl Cox and Megan Bethel make a sign for the shelter.

Cox said nearly 70 residents used the cooling center on Sunday, and estimated almost twice that many as of 5 p.m. Monday. Red Cross provided Donatos Pizza for lunch and Kentucky Fried Chicken for dinner Tuesday, and Cox said more than 400 clients had been at the shelter by 3 p.m.

Electricity was restored in some parts of McArthur Tuesday, but remains out across much of the county.

With all of the aid made available to the public, Cox said temptations to take more than necessary might arise.

“The community needs to remember it is not only just them that are suffering, it’s the entire county,” Cox said.  “Wee need to keep a limit on what we can provide.”

Peggy Pruitt, director of Emergency Services for the Southeastern Ohio Red Cross, said the cooling shelter will be open again Wednesday, but they are waiting to hear back from the power companies and the Vinton County Sheriff to determine if it will remain open after that.

Pruitt said the Red Cross has assessed the damage in Vinton County and identified houses that are destroyed or have major damage. Pruitt said the people who live in them will qualify for aid from the Red Cross.

“Now, because this is a national disaster, a statewide, national declared disaster, what happens is the emergency managers of each county have to determine the needs of their county based on damage, and then they request to the state,” Pruitt said.

After all of the assessments are in, Pruitt said information on what FEMA will be providing will become public. People will then go to sites set up and apply for aid based on the damages done.

“So, the amazing thing about disasters is that they happen in a moment and recovery can go on for months, so there may be no quick answers,” Pruitt said.

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