Residents heat up, stay safe at warming centers

  • Posted: Saturday, February 15, 2014 12:01 a.m.
    UPDATED: Saturday, February 15, 2014 2:47 p.m.
Staff photo by Ben Baugh
Maria Kelly, left, and Gwen Boyer left their homes after losing heat, electricity and water, and are staying at the Salvation Army warming shelter.
Staff photo by Ben Baugh Maria Kelly, left, and Gwen Boyer left their homes after losing heat, electricity and water, and are staying at the Salvation Army warming shelter.

Frank Viola and his wife Theresa were sitting in their home on Wednesday afternoon. They experienced power surges, with the electricity going on and off, and finally there was what they referred to as a “click.”

But things began to take a turn for the worse. The Violas covered themselves with blankets, but found their home became increasingly colder.

Frank Viola called Aiken Electric Cooperative at 4 a.m. on Thursday and found himself not being able to get any answers to his questions. The frustration compounded his problems. The mobile home park where he lives was full of limbs. He found himself barricaded in, not being able to get out. It was 5 a.m. on Thursday morning.

“We were trapped,” said Viola, whose wife is diabetic and without her insulin. “We stuck it out a little bit, and then I asked my wife to call the Salvation Army, because we would have died there. There's no way we would have made it. We had no food except some canned goods. The water shut off. I said, 'We have no electricity, heat or water. We have to do something.'”

The Violas joined several others on Thursday at the Salvation Army warming shelter on Gayle Avenue for the opportunity of a cot, blanket and warm meal.

A giant tree limb fell on Maria Kelly's security light; several other tree limbs took out her power and cablevision and a tree fell over into a neighbor's yard. Food began to spoil because of the lack of electricity. Kelly was faced with the dilemma of no heat and 26-degree temperatures. She was also faced with the challenge of having no transportation. Kelly was initially going to go to the shelter at the Aiken High School, but was redirected to the Salvation Army warming shelter. The Aiken County Sheriff's Office came to Kelly's rescue with a timely ride to the facility.

“We've been here since 9:20 last night (Thursday),” said Kelly.

During the ice storm of 2004, Kelly had lived in a duplex, with no chimney, no power, and there was a five-day wait before power was restored.

“We had ice on the ground,” said Kelly. “The gas was leaking inside our house. We could smell it. It was warm with the insulation and brick. Wood is a different story.”

A metal framed cot, Red Cross blanket and a warm meal were welcome sights for those at the Salvation Army warming center, but it was also a time to socialize and for a moment to forget one's problems.

“I'm meeting interesting and new people,” said Kelly.

Gwen Dolan Boyer found herself plunged into total darkness on Tuesday night. Boyer prepared for the storm in a number of ways, but not for one of such magnitude. She decided to weather the storm initially, but found herself without a way of knowing when her electricity might be restored. There were power lines down around Boyer's property and her prized 10 pecan trees were damaged from the weight of the ice. Boyer made the decision to go to the shelter.

“We kept on hearing all of these explosive sounds like machine guns,” said Boyer. “Where we live the cable lines are on the same transformers. The street light is on our cable line, and all of them went down at the same time. We were in complete darkness, without a way to communicate. Our cellphones didn't work. It's nice and warm at the shelter and the captain's wife (Angela Repass) is a doll. She was so accommodating and helpful. I'm glad they shared with us because it gave us an opportunity to make new friends.”

The Salvation Army warming shelter is located at 322 Gayle Ave. There is a second warming shelter open at North Augusta Middle School, 725 Old Edgefield Road, North Augusta.

Ben Baugh has been covering the equine industry and equestrian sport for the Aiken Standard since 2004.

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