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Missourians without power told not to rough it

Friday, January 30, 2009 | 4:36 p.m. CST

ST. LOUIS — As power outages continue to linger in much of southern Missouri, not everyone is heading for a shelter.

Some are trying to rough it, prompting warnings on Friday from community leaders and health officials worried about potential dangers posed by both the cold and by makeshift efforts to stay warm inside powerless homes.

The winter storm Monday and Tuesday dumped an inch or more of ice on the Missouri bootheel and other areas south of Interstate 44. By Friday, 78,000 homes and businesses were still without power, and utility officials said it would likely be several more days before electricity was completely restored.

That meant communities were working around the clock to meet basic needs — making sure people had warm places to stay, regular meals and clean water for drinking and bathing.

Some just used whatever was on hand to make the best of it.

In Poplar Bluff, a man was using a barbecue grill inside to cook and keep warm, deputy police chief Jeff Rolland said. "Luckily, one of our volunteers was in a position to see what he was doing and inform him of the carbon monoxide dangers of using a charcoal grill inside a residence," Rolland said.

Kim Roseberry of Essex turned on a gas stove to melt ice from her yard for household cleanup and conserved her bottled water for drinking. Jamie Twomey of Dexter told the Southeast Missourian newspaper he was using a camping stove to cook meals and bought groceries at a store where clerks tallied up bills using calculators because the power was out.

Reasons varied why some residents refused to leave their homes behind. Some simply didn't want to stay in shelters and had nowhere else to go.

Others didn't want to leave pets behind, said Chaffee Mayor Loretta Mohorc. She worried many homes in the community of 3,000 were too cold to stay in.

The Chaffee Fire Department was trying to get everyone inside for warm meals, even if some insisted on returning home at night.

In Hayti, alderwoman Lisa Green said a temporary generator was in use to run the water plant, and power was being moved around in order to pump waste water through the sewage system. A boil alert was in place and residents were encouraged to conserve on water use.

"Our water plant is up and running, but people are inundating it," Green said. The community has received some bottled water, but needs more.

Shelters remained busy. About 450 people slept at Black River Coliseum in Poplar Bluff on Thursday night.

Others found refuge with friends or family, including Stacey Anderson, 31, of Poplar Bluff. After three days, she and her husband are still staying with friends.

"We're like gypsy vagrants," Anderson said. "We're both wore out. We just look terrible — and we've gotten showers — but our butts are dragging."


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