In Scott County, some head for shelter, some break out saws

Thursday, January 29, 2009
Wayne Isaac, who has been a Chaffee resident since 1941, eats lunch provided at the designated warming center Wednesday, January 28, 2009, at the Chaffee Nutrition Center. All of Chaffee was without power as of late Tuesday evening.

While hundreds of Southeast Missouri residents left without power after this week's ice storm sought refuge in shelters Wednesday, Danny Cosby spent his time helping others deal with the aftermath.

Cosby, without power all day Wednesday at his Benton, Mo., residence, gathered some tree-cutting equipment and spent the day with two other men removing fallen limbs and branches from the roadways and assisting others with de-icing their vehicles so they could leave their homes.

"We're just basically making sure everybody's all right, that they have plenty to eat," Cosby said as they removed a snarl of tree branches that lay across U.S. 61 in Benton, obstructing traffic on the snow-clogged roadway.

At Boomland in Benton, lines at the gas pumps were six or seven cars deep. Most of the drivers were Sikeston residents there to fuel up because Sikeston had been mostly without power since Tuesday night.

By 6 p.m. Wednesday, power had been restored to a few businesses and homes in Sikeston, but the city was still mostly dark, leaving more than 300 residents to seek refuge at warming centers powered by generators at Miner Baptist Church and Sikeston Fieldhouse.

Several secondary roads and intersections were closed due to fallen power lines, said Lt. Rick Rapert, shift supervisor for Sikeston Department of Public Safety.

Side streets buried under slush and tree branches were barely visible in some spots, and icicles stretched from roof overhangs to the ground on some homes in the older parts of the city.

Cars, houses and streets signs showed damage from the weight of the ice and debris from the storm, and in several yards telephone poles lay splintered on the snow.

"We're just devastated. It's a disaster," said Ed Throop, general manager of the Sikeston Board of Municipal Utilities.

When Donna Williams of Canalou, Mo., had first heard of the approaching winter storm Monday, she admitted she was excited to have a chance to play in the snow with her two children and drink hot chocolate.

On Wednesday, Williams, her children and her friend Lori Ramey of Sikeston, Mo., had gone to the American Red Cross shelter at the Sikeston Fieldhouse, and Williams said she regretted not being prepared for the storm.

"Next time, we're going to have an emergency suitcase," Williams said.

Ramey pointed out she'd had extra blankets and supplies but could do little to keep herself and her family warm during the power outage, which could last as long as a week in some places.

"Even if you were prepared, it just wasn't enough," Ramey said.

David Chartrau of Miner, Mo., said when power went out in his house Tuesday night, he, his wife and their wire-haired terrier Lana had driven around Miner and Sikeston seeking a place to stay before learning that Miner Baptist Church was open as a warming center.

His wife volunteered to help at the shelter to keep herself busy, and Chartrau made several trips back to their home to check on their other dog, a 100-pound Labrador capable of toughing out the cold, he said.

"I basically stayed up all night. One of the cots collapsed on me," Chartrau said.

In Scott City, the weight of ice began snapping trees Tuesday night and continued Wednesday. Residents of the city's Old Illmo section could hear the loud cracks all night and into the morning.

By midmorning, Logan Hennecke was helping neighbor Anthony Bundy clean up after a large limb bounced off the roof of Bundy's home on Fourth Street East and smashed a storage shed. The limb narrowly missed crushing Bundy's dog in its doghouse.

"This is a lot worse than it was last year," Hennecke said of the falling limbs as branches continued to break.

At the Chaffee Nutrition Center on Main Street on Wednesday afternoon, about 30 residents sat around talking, knitting or reading after a warm meal of soup, biscuits and cake.

Chaffee lost power around 10 p.m. Tuesday, and the nutrition center is relying on a generator to power the heating and kitchen, said Kevin Payne, emergency operations director for the city.

Matt Sanders of the Southeast Missourian and Michelle Felter of the Standard Democrat contributed to this report.


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