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Blizzard leaves cities covered in snow, ice — Power knocked out for 100,000s

<p>Many buildings, including this church sign, received a tremendous amount of damage during the snowstorm, which produced strong winds.</p>

Many buildings, including this church sign, received a tremendous amount of damage during the snowstorm, which produced strong winds.

<p>North Little Rock Electric Department employee Chris Ray works on a house on New Year&amp;#8217;s Day near Main Street to restore power following last week&amp;#8217;s Christmas snowstorm. Crews have worked many long hours to get the power back on since Christmas.</p>

North Little Rock Electric Department employee Chris Ray works on a house on New Year&#8217;s Day near Main Street to restore power following last week&#8217;s Christmas snowstorm. Crews have worked many long hours to get the power back on since Christmas.

<p>Dave Moore, volunteer with the American Red Cross, feeds a group of people who occupied on Dec. 27 the warming center opened at the Jacksonville Community Center. The Jacksonville Center was one of several opened by the Red Cross to help victims of the blizzard of 2013 cope with no electricity at their homes. (Photos by Greg Rayburn)</p>

Dave Moore, volunteer with the American Red Cross, feeds a group of people who occupied on Dec. 27 the warming center opened at the Jacksonville Community Center. The Jacksonville Center was one of several opened by the Red Cross to help victims of the blizzard of 2013 cope with no electricity at their homes. (Photos by Greg Rayburn)

<p>This tree down in the Park Hill area of North Little Rock was a common site in Central Arkansas in the days following the Christmas Day snowstorm.</p>

This tree down in the Park Hill area of North Little Rock was a common site in Central Arkansas in the days following the Christmas Day snowstorm.

<p>First Electric Cooperative lineman Devon Melbourne hoists a transformer with the help of lineman Tim Huie and contractors while working an outage in the Gravel Ridge area Dec. 28. Photo courtesy of First Electric Cooperative.</p>

First Electric Cooperative lineman Devon Melbourne hoists a transformer with the help of lineman Tim Huie and contractors while working an outage in the Gravel Ridge area Dec. 28. Photo courtesy of First Electric Cooperative.

The American Red Cross in the hours and days after the Christmas snow blizzard opened up several shelters to provide Central Arkansas residents left without power a place to receive protection from the elements as utility crews worked around the clock to restore the power.

As of Friday, Dec. 29, the American Red Cross opened several locations until power is restored, which were: North Little Rock Community Center, 2700 Willow St., North Little Rock; Jacksonville Community Center, 5 Municipal Drive, Jacksonville; Dunbar Community Center, 16th St. and Chester, Little Rock; Summit Arena, 134 Convention Blvd., Hot Springs; and Poyen Assembly of God Church, 104 S. Ash St., Poyen in Grant County.

In addition, the Southwest Little Rock Community Center had been opened until Jan. 1.

To help people affected by disasters like the recent snowstorm and the daily residential fires, as well as countless crises at home and around the world, the public is encouraged to make a donation to support American Red Cross Disaster Relief.

“Your gift enables the Red Cross to prepare for and provide shelter, food, emotional support and other assistance in response to disasters,” reads an official news release. “Visit www.arkansasredcross.org, www.redcross.org, call 1-800-RED-CROSS, or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Contributions may also be sent to the American Red Cross in Arkansas, 401 South Monroe, Little Rock, AR 72205 or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013.”

People going to the warming centers should remember to bring prescription and emergency medications, extra clothing, pillows, blankets, toiletries, important documents and other comfort items. They should also remember items needed for infants and children, such as diapers, formula, and toys, along with any special things for family members who are elderly or disabled.

Jill Ponder, Energy Services Manager for the North Little Rock Electric Department, said crews have completed power restoration to more than 10,000 customers across North Little Rock and Sherwood who lost electricity due to the winter storm that arrive on Christmas Day.

“North Little Rock Electric Department asks for continued patience as crews work to restore power to the customer’s with outages that are scattered throughout North Little Rock and Sherwood,” Ponder said.

More information can be found at nlrelectric.com, on the department’s Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/NLRElectric or by following on Twitter @NLRElectric. For more information contact Ponder at 501-553-7440 or jponder@northlittlerock.ar.gov.

Tina Worrell, North Little Rock’s Recreation Department Superintendent, said a few people had used the city’s community center in the days following the Christmas snowstorm.

“We have had is three this morning,” Worrell said last Thursday. “And then we had a family of seven come in.”

Worrell said ten people registered to use the NLR facility at one time.

The Jacksonville Community Center appeared to see much more action as dozens of men, women and children used it during the days after the storm.

Several storm victims told their stories about how they ended up at the center.

Janet Ragan of Jacksonville said she came to the community center to charge her cell phone.

“They are telling me it may be possibly a week before I get my electric back,” Ragan said. “I could not come here before because they do not accept animals here. We don’t want to leave them there alone.”

Ragan said she left her pets with a blanket and sweater.

Ragan said she has had to throw away all of the food in her refrigerator. She said she lost power on Christmas Day.

“I really didn’t hear anything,” Ragan said. “We knew the transformer was going.”

Doris Baker of Jacksonville said she lost power on Christmas day.

“They told me it may be a couple of days before I get power back because a tree fell on a power line,” Baker said.

Baker said this is the worst winter storm she has seen in the area for 30 years. She said it ranks worse than the ice storm that hit the Central Arkansas area in 2000.

Since the ice storm, she has decided to get a kerosene heater but it also has gone out.

“We got a kerosene heater because it keeps the house warm,” Baker said.

Gerald Vannieuwenhoven of Jacksonville, who lives across the street from Baker, said power went out on Christmas.

Vannieuwenhoven, a Wisconsin native, said the snowstorm was not bad compared to his home state. “Just wait until the power goes out and the temperature goes down to 35 degrees below,” he said.

Billy Young of Jacksonville said power went out 1 a.m. on the day after Christmas.

“The power just went out,” said Young, who lives at Eastwood Apartments. “The whole complex went out. We are not sure when the power will come back.”

Fellisha McLean of Tonyville, which is just outside of Jacksonville, said her home’s power went out after a tree fell on her house. She resides at the Oakwood Mobile Home Park.

“The power lines are lying on my dad’s house,” McLean said. “They still haven’t removed the tree. We had a good Christmas. The three fell between 9:30-10 (p.m.).”

McLean said her family had to drive in the storm to get out of the mobile home because the house was unsafe because of the trees.

“The trees were popping and falling,” McLean said. “It was really scary because of where we are at. It was really quiet outside and very dark. It was beautiful at first when we saw the slow. It was quiet and no noise. Then all of a sudden there is the sound of trees breaking around you. We have four kids and at my dad’s house, the girls were already asleep and then you see the trees falling. It was very scary.”

McLean said several trees fell down in her area, including one in the front yard, inside her house and another tree next to her house.

“There was this distinct cracking and crashing sound,” McLean said. “You are scared to death if it is going to fall in the room you are in next.

McLean said what made the experience even more difficult was it came during Christmas.

“At Christmas, you don’t have a lot of money because of everything you buy for Christmas,” McLean said.

After the tree feel and the family fled in the dark, they made it to Jacksonville to try and find an apartment to stay since their home was uninhabitable.

“You are driving through so much stuff because no streets are cleared because the storm is going on now,” McLean said. “We barely made it to town. We had to find a place to stay warm.”

McLean said she was a bit frustrated because the hotel she found was managed by someone who did not have any empathy for her family’s plight.

“All they cared about was the money,” McLean said. “We had to pay $80 to get a hotel room. It was 1 a.m. in the morning when we got the room.”

The hotel room they got ended up housing six children and three adults with two beds.

“The next morning we had to leave,” McLean said. “They were quick to get us out. To be honest, it is really sad to see that. It is all about the money, not helping people when they are in a bad spot.”

The next morning the McLean family went back to their home to assess the damage.

“We lit one kerosene heater hoping to keep the kids warm but it was just not happening,” McLean said. “My dad came here (Jacksonville Community Center) after hearing about this place. So we all loaded up and came here.

She said the American Red Cross did a good job helping them during their time of need.

Timothy and Amanda Bright of Jacksonville said they lost power on Christmas day.

“Branches kept falling on my house and kept scaring my family,” said Timothy.

His family initially went to Sherwood to stay with his sister but power went out there, too.

“The branches kept hitting the house,” Timothy said. “We briefly came back to our Jacksonville house but then went out again. The branches kept hitting the house,” Timothy said.

The bad weather left the Bright home with five holes in the roof and made the dwelling uninhabitable in its present condition.

“It did a lot of damage,” Timothy said. “We sat in the parking lot of Wal-Mart for 2 hours because of the roads. We were almost run out of gas.”

Even though the Bright family fell on hard times the warming center and Red Cross were quite helpful.

“They welcomed us with open arms in here,” Timothy said.

Timothy said it has been discouraging in recent years with what his family has undergone in different parts of the country.

“We left San Diego get away from the weather and earthquakes. When we went to Arizona, it was 126 degrees in summertime. We had freezing and record breaking temperatures in Washington State and now we come here and we get this. Everywhere we got we get bad luck,” said Timothy.

Timothy said while his family stayed in a Washington State mobile home there was a storm where there were record-breaking cold temperatures where his home had the only working cast iron potbelly stove.

“We fed 18 people and kept everybody warm,” Timothy said.

One item that came out of the Washington State experienced was a crock-pot used to help feed hungry people and the Brights brought it to the Jacksonville Community Center so it could be used if somebody needed it.

“We shared it,” Timothy said. “I believe in helping people because it might be you who needs it the next time.”

Charlene Nelson of Jacksonville said she lost power Christmas night about 10:30.

“We lost it for two seconds and it came back, and then went off again about 10:30 p.m.” Nelson said. “The utility company told us the transformer blew.”

Nelson said the 2012 snowstorm ranks up with the 2000 ice storm. “We lost power for about five days in the ice storm,” Nelson said.

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