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Red Cross establishes disaster shelters following severe winter storms in the Midwest
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Brooke Ray
December 3, 2006

Today, more than 380,000 homes are still without power in Missouri and Illinois following a massive winter storm that stretched across the Midwest. Freezing rain, sleet and snow pelted the Greater St. Louis area, weighing down power lines, snapping trees and creating dangerous driving conditions.

In the evening hours of Thursday, Nov. 30, more than 500,000 homes in Missouri and Illinois lost electricity following the severe winter storm. On Friday, Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt declared a state of emergency and dispatched the Missouri National Guard to St. Louis. Flights were canceled, schools were closed, and roads and highways were coated with a thick layer of ice. Without electricity, indoor temperatures plummeted and the community looked to the Red Cross and other relief agencies for assistance.

The American Red Cross St. Louis Area Chapter worked through the night Thursday to prepare cots, blankets, comfort kits, food and hot drinks. Five emergency disaster shelters were opened within hours of the outage. More than 60 Red Cross volunteers have been assisting with the shelter operations.

Erlene Hampton, 94, and Sylvia Baker stay warm at a Red Cross shelter in North St. Louis City on Saturday, Dec. 2, 2006. (Photo Credit: American Red Cross)
Erlene Hampton, 94, and Sylvia Baker stay warm at a
Red Cross shelter in North St. Louis City, Dec. 2, 2006.
(Photo Credit: American Red Cross)

Friday evening, nearly 300 men, women and children arrived at the shelters. Two guests, 94-year-old Erlene Hampton and her 74-year-old caretaker, Sylvia Baker, arrived at the shelter on Kingshighway Boulevard in North St. Louis City.

“We were welcomed with open arms,” said Baker. “Two Red Cross volunteers helped get Erlene situated and another person found her a wheelchair.”

Hampton, a retired St. Louis school teacher, has early Alzheimer’s and lives at home with 24-hour care. When her home lost power, Baker, a registered nurse, contacted family members and friends but was unable to find anyone with electricity. In search of resources, Baker helped Hampton to her warm car and the two drove to the Normandy fire department where they were then referred to the Red Cross.

“At first, Erlene’s anxiety level was high because of the unfamiliar surroundings but in spite of everything, we aren’t cold and we aren’t hungry,” said Baker. “We have been treated royally, and I don’t know what we would have done without this shelter,” she said noting that the thermostat in Hampton’s home was at 48 degrees on Friday.

“This is the second major power outage for St. Louis in the last six months,” Red Cross shelter manager Lois Flippen said. “The sheltering process is familiar and the guests have been positive and hopeful that power will be restored quickly.”

In July, severe weather knocked out power to the Greater St. Louis area for nearly a week. In response, the St. Louis Area Chapter established four shelters with the help of more than 200 volunteers.

Since Friday morning, the St. Louis Area Chapter has sheltered 604 people over two nights in five emergency shelters and served 3,083 meals and snacks to shelter guests. All five shelters remain open 24-hours to provide safe refuge from the cold temperatures for those who have lost power. These shelters will remain available for shelter guests as long as is necessary.

Brooke Ray is an American Red Cross employee with the St. Louis Area Chapter.

All American Red Cross disaster assistance is free, made possible by voluntary donations of time and money from the American people. You can help the victims of thousands of disasters across the country each year by making a financial gift to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund, which enables the Red Cross to provide shelter, food, counseling and other assistance to victims of disaster. The American Red Cross honors donor intent. If you wish to designate your donation to a specific disaster, please do so at the time of your donation. Call 1-800-REDCROSS or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish). Contributions to the Disaster Relief Fund may be sent to your local American Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross, P. O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013. Internet users can make a secure online contribution by visiting www.redcross.org.

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