The wind howled and icicles hung Friday from the shield-shaped sign outside the Salvation Army’s Oklahoma City shelter. A couple of stoop-shouldered men stood smoking cigarettes just outside the doorway, backs bowed against the blowing snow. This storm wasn’t as bad as the blizzard that blew in just before Christmas, but it was plenty bad enough to make the streets miserable, the men inside the shelter agreed. "It gets real cold,” declared Wendell Crosslen. "I dropped some tears, but they stopped right here,” he said, pointing to a place on his cheek about 2 inches below his eye. Crosslen said he had been sleeping in a makeshift shelter on the streets ever since he was put out from the City Rescue Mission, but he came to the Salvation Army on Thursday night. It was warm inside the Salvation Army’s day room, but Crosslen and most of the other two dozen or so men inside remained bundled up in several layers of clothing — clear signs that they viewed the shelter as temporary. Richard Newman of Oklahoma City didn’t have on a heavy coat, but said that wasn’t because he didn’t want one. "This is the only place I got to go,” he said. "Me and my wife split up, and she kicked me out. ... I’ve been homeless about a week.” Newman said he came to the Salvation Army to get warm and get something to eat, but was frustrated because he arrived after lunch and the workers wouldn’t give him a sack lunch because they mistakenly thought he had been there for meal served at noon. Michael Boyd said he came to the Salvation Army hoping workers there could help him work through some of his problems so he could get back together with his wife. Janet Miller, residential services manager for the Salvation Army, said the organization normally has 44 at its men’s shelter, but had an additional 52 on cots Thursday night. She said the number was surprising, because only about 35 more men came in during the Christmas Eve blizzard. The harshness of the December blizzard caught many of the men by surprise, she said, adding that one of the shelter’s residents got frostbite during the blizzard and now is in danger of losing his toes. "I think that got the attention of some of these men, which may be why more came in this time,” she said. "We serve a lot of veterans here. It’s a terrible thing to have so many homeless veterans.” Miller said the shelter is well stocked but could use additional blankets.
Staying warmWhen Pat Mann pulled into her driveway Thursday afternoon and saw transformers explode, she knew it was going to be a long weekend. Mann and more than 12,000 residents of Chickasha were without electricity and spent Thursday night bundled in blankets, trying to fight the cold. To escape the below-freezing temperatures in her home on Friday, Mann went to the Grady County Fairgrounds to volunteer with the Salvation Army. She greeted new arrivals and offered them coffee and food. "It’s a disaster because everyone is without power. I wanted to help the community,” Mann said. Terry Pewitt, of Cement, and his four children decided to leave town Friday morning and drive until they found somewhere with power. About 2½ hours later, they made it to the Grady County Fairgrounds. "We’re going to stay here until the power comes on,” Pewitt said. "There’s no sense in going to a house without power.” Officials at the fairgrounds said they will keep the site open as long as people are without electricity and brought in cots. However, some may not be able to stay as long as they’d like. Faye Barnett and her husband, Lloyd, of Rush Springs, brought their dog along because he helps control Lloyd’s asthma. Pets aren’t allowed in the shelter, and if the dog has to go, so will they, Faye said. "We’re staying here as long as they’ll let us. … Otherwise we’ll go home and freeze,” Faye said. "It could be a couple days before we get electricity, living out in the country.” Chickasha emergency management director Steve Chapman said Friday’s turnout was the largest he had seen, with more than 30 people entering during the afternoon. "We can’t expect people to stay in a house without heat, especially with the temperatures in the teens,” Chapman said. "It’s a health issue.”
Working with no sleepCharity Nayak on Friday slowly navigated along slippery State Highway 7 near Lawton. She had been awake 29 hours to help open emergency shelters but was in no hurry to get back home. "It’s crazy here,” she said. "I’m completely good. I could keep going, but they told me I had to go home and get some sleep.” The Red Cross volunteer was helping open the Lawton shelter when she got a call about 5:30 p.m. Thursday. The Red Cross needed her help to open the Duncan shelter as the ice storm plunged the community into darkness. "We had a lot of people show up, and we’re expecting more,” Nayak said. Sixty-five people from Duncan went to the Stephens County Fairground to get shelter and hot meals, said Kyla Campbell, America Red Cross spokeswoman. "That’s a lot. Especially since we’re not typically a shelter state. We go to families’ homes, friends’ houses or a lot of places before we go to a shelter,” she said. "If it’s a prolonged storm, we will be opening up more shelters,” she said.
Altus strugglesLloyd Colston, director of emergency management for Altus, said power started flickering in the area about 2 p.m. Thursday. Oklahoma Municipal Power Authority reported more than 9,700 without power in the area late Friday afternoon. The southwest portion of the state was one of the hardest hit by the ice storm. A shelter opened at the Altus Community Center Thursday evening, said John Valenzuela, disaster services director for the Southwest Oklahoma Chapter of the Red Cross. A shelter was also opened in Hollis, a warming station in Hobart and a temporary shelter in Mangum. "It looks like a tornado came through here,” said Valenzuela of the ice-covered trees and power lines downed across Jackson County. He said there still is no word on when power might be restored to the area. "You have to understand that there are people here on oxygen and other things who need power for medical reasons,” he said. As many as 90 people were expected to take shelter at the Altus Community Center Friday night.
Hollis handles itMore than 3,000 customers in Hollis have been in the dark since 9 a.m. Thursday, Hollis Police Department dispatcher Randall Springfield said. "There’s no electricity. Ice is several inches thick and lines are down everywhere,” he said. He said residents are jamming the phone lines with questions about how soon electricity will be back. The power company said five to 10 days, he said. People are using one gas station’s manual pump to pump gas, and some stores are opening so people can buy generators, he said. "They’re doing like most Oklahomans do, taking care of themselves,” Springfield said.
Mangum contributingHalf a dozen Mangum residents who lost power Thursday night were staying at the Church of New Beginnings and more were expected Friday, said church member Mike Welch. "We’re just doing whatever we can for them,” he said. "The good Lord is blessing us. People are offering food and all kinds of stuff.”
CONTRIBUTING WRITERSStaff Writers Randy Ellis, Meredith Moriack, Sonya Colberg and Vallery Brown