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Oklahomans retreat to shelters, feeding and warming centers

Staff Writers Modified: January 29, 2010 at 10:03 pm •  Published: January 29, 2010

LAWTON � Charity Nayak 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 today . "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 to open the Lawton shelter when she got a call around 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 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.

She added that all the shelters are well-supplied and prepared.

"If it's a prolonged storm, we will be opening up more shelters," she said.

Altus struggles

Altus Police dispatcher Christina Miller said the department has gotten an untold number of calls since the city lost its main transmission line sometime between 4 and 6 p.m. Thursday.

"It's cold and dark all over town," Miller said. She said she had to ask a police officer for a ride to work early Friday morning because her car doors were frozen shut.

Lloyd Colston, director of emergency management for Altus, said power started flickering in the area around 2 p.m. Thursday. As of Friday morning, Oklahoma Municipal Power Authority reported more than 9,700 without power in the area. The southwest portion of the state was one of the hardest hit by the ice storm.

"This is just no fun at all," Colston said. "And the cold doesn't look like it's going away for a while."

A shelter opened at the Altus Community Center Thursday evening, said John Valenzuela, disaster services diretor 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 powerlines downed across Jackson County.

He said there is still 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 reason," he said.

As many as 90 individuals were expected to take shelter at the Altus Community Center Friday evening.

Hollis handles it

Hollis has 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 everyone's behaving pretty well but residents are jamming the phone lines, mostly with questions on how soon the electricity will be restored. The power company said it will be 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 to use in the meantime, he said.

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