Thousands left cold in Georgia ice storm

BY SUSAN KIM | ATLANTA, Ga. | January 24, 2000


ATLANTA, Ga. (Jan. 24, 2000) -- Nearly 9,000 residents are still coping

with power outages in Georgia after an unusual weekend ice storm downed

trees and power lines.

Many residents who have no power also have damaged homes. But neighbor-

to-neighbor communication has helped people retain a degree of hope and

comfort.

Emergency shelters remained open throughout the region, especially in

the hard-hit Atlanta area. Power crews continue working around-the-clock

to restore services. The storm downed trees -- including many of Atlanta's

80-year-old oaks -- and telephone poles, which crushed vehicles and

roofs.

Some chilly residents were able to check into hotels over the weekend,

but by Monday most rooms were already booked as Super Bowl teams and fans

descended on the city for Sunday's contest.

Many said that their Y2K preparations have helped them weather this storm.

At the Atlanta Metropolitan Cathedral, a neighborhood "cell system," or

communication phone tree, was activated across the city. "Our

preparations for Y2K helped us be ready to check on each other during

this storm," said Kenny Ash. "We've had this system in place for about

five years but in preparing for Y2K we had prepared to reactivate it."

Similarly, the Atlanta Children's Coalition, based at the Euclid Avenue

Baptist Church, gave out candles they stocked for Y2K. The

coalition ministers to several hundred children from the inner city.

"Parents have been coming in to get candles and food," said Kathy

Tucker, head of outreach. "Also, homeless people are coming in here to

get something to eat. They're cold. Unless people have gas heat,

they're in trouble."

The Clifton Presbyterian Church -- itself without power after the

storm -- still operated as a shelter for homeless men. "We've got

candles going, and had cold cereal for breakfast. We just stored the

milk outside," said Allison Hajdu-Paulen, church member.

Churches can serve as official emergency shelters only if they have

adequate facilities, said Jim Earhart, a church planning consultant

based in Atlanta. "Churches should be forward-thinking when planning

their space needs," he said. "For example, if a church has a fellowship

hall, there's no reason why that space shouldn't be used for emergency

response if the church can provide appropriate restroom facilities."

Building shower facilities into men's and women's restrooms enables a

church or fellowship building to serve as an emergency shelter and also

to house volunteers who may travel to disaster-affected areas to help

clean up debris, repair homes, or otherwise minister to disaster

survivors.

Churches that want to serve as shelters should also learn state code

requirements and fire regulations before disaster strikes, he added.

Disaster response leaders also recommend that churches that could serve

as shelters plan ahead by communicating with denominational response

organizations, emergency management leaders, or the American Red Cross.

"We would respond as a shelter but we just don't have the facilities,"

said Pam Yawn at the All Saints Episcopal Church in Atlanta.

At another downtown church, First United Methodist, David Ogletree,

who has been an associate minister for 30 years, said he remembers only

one other ice storm but not of this magnitude. "We had to cancel Sunday

services, and I can remember only one other time we've had to do that,"

he said. "But we have power. We're blessed."

Even at churches without power, members gathered for comfort and

fellowship rather than stay in their cold, dark homes. "We're surviving.

We're okay," said Glenda Osborne, an employee at the Emory Presbyterian

Church.

This ice storm occurred almost exactly two years after a large 1998 ice

storm in the northeast and Canada that left more than a million homes

without power for days.

That storm, and to a smaller extent the weekend storm, also affected

farmers when milking machines couldn't be used and many farmers had to

milk by hand. If cows go for several days without milking, they die from

mastitis.

The stronger-than-expected storm, initially expected to move out to sea,

surprised the east coast by dumping two feet of snow.

Updated January 26, 2000


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