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Ice, snow bring struggles, injuries

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Storm sends powerless to shelter, work crews to roads, electric lines

By Kevin Koelling, Managing Editor

PERRY COUNTY – Road conditions were improving, but Perry County people were not out of the woods yet Friday as far as winter-storm related dangers, one driver found out. Fulda resident Rob Gentry, 39, sustained a minor injury when ice from another vehicle shattered the windshield of his pickup truck at approximately 10:30 a.m. a short distance west of the Waupaca turnoff on Indiana 66.

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Gentry was treated by Perry County paramedics at the scene for a cut over one eye and declined further treatment.

In other storm-related events Friday, Llynn Enmen, service-center manager for the Red Cross, moved a shelter established at Tell City's Schergens Center to the St. Paul Church parish hall to make way for a "bridal expo" scheduled for Saturday.

She said Friday evening she was aware of it when she made arrangements with Tell City's mayor and knew she'd have to move the shelter. She explained Red Cross policy is "not to take over" facilities in which emergency shelters are established.  

She said support of the shelter has been good.

"Everyone has just been phenomenal in bringing stuff and helping out," she said.

Deaths and Injuries

Eleven people sought refuge at the Perry County shelter from homes without electricity, according to a report from the state's Department of Homeland Security. Statewide, 804 people reported to shelters, which had a combined capacity of 2,570, according to the department's report. It noted three storm-related fatalities had been confirmed. A Marengo woman was killed in a weather-related traffic accident, and residents of Jackson and Daviess Counties died while shoveling snow.

Clark County and Floyd County have each reported two carbon-monoxide-related injuries caused by improper generator use.

Homeland Security reported up to 13 inches of snow and 1 inch of ice accumulated across central and southern Indiana, causing power outages and transportation issues. School systems and county government offices across most of the southern two-thirds of the state were closed, and roads in many areas were impassable.

The department urged Hoosiers to be aware of price gouging. "If you feel you have been a victim of price gouging, please call the Consumer Protection Division at (317) 232-6330 or (800) 382-5516," they urged in a news release.

Indiana Department of Natural Resources crews were working on debris removal in Perry and Crawford counties, according to the Homeland Security release, with two two-man crews augmented in each county by a four-man team from the Indiana Department of Correction.

A Web site at www.in.gov/dhs provides current county emergency situations.

Still Without Power

Power outages continued to be a problem in southern Indiana Friday morning, with crews reporting it could be several more days before full power is restored. A mid-morning Friday news release from Southern Indiana Power said approximately 2,000 members were still without power.

"The ice storm that blasted through the area initially left close to 6,600 members without power, President and Chief Executive Officer Michael Hammack said in the release. "Southern Indiana Power is following standard utility practice in repairing and energizing its lines. Feeder and primary lines are being repaired first, then secondary lines, then service lines. This method restores power to the greatest number of people in the shortest amount of time."

"Ice can be our worst enemy," he continued. "It builds up on power lines and can cause branches and trees to fall onto lines. Downed power lines can be extremely dangerous. Anyone who sees a downed line should assume it's energized, avoid it and report it to us."

The cooperative estimated all members will have power restored by late next week. Members whose power has not been restored were being asked to please continue to contact the office once a day to help keep outage information correct and avoid the possibility of someone being overlooked.

"Other cooperative and contract crews from as far away as Gary and Ft. Wayne have joined forces with us in an effort to restore power to members as quickly and safely as possible," Hammack said. "We presently have over 60 line personnel assisting in our restoration efforts."

Deadly Generators

Hammack stressed the importance in using all safety precautions when operating a generator. In addition to the danger of carbon monoxide accumulating if they're used in closed areas, the electricity they produce can travel through power lines and kill or injure crews working to restore power. If connected to a home's electric lines, it can also  damage the generator and other electrical equipment, creating fire hazards.