Winter Storm Causes 4 Deaths, Power Outages
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
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And I'm Melissa Block.
Utility crews from 14 states worked over the weekend to restore electricity to people in Missouri and Illinois. The major storm that blew through the area has been blamed for at least 19 deaths. And there are still nearly 300,000 customers without power.
Tom Weber of member station KWMU reports from St. Louis.
TOM WEBER: It's not the first time this year the Missouri National Guard has walked the streets of St. Louis. A few months ago, at the peak of summer, they went to check on people who had lost power and were baking in a heat wave. Now, specialist John Mitchell and some members of the 1175th Military Police Company are sitting in a Humvee on Claxton Avenue on the city's north side, trying to stay warm.
Specialist JOHN MITCHELL (1175th Military Police Company): We're finding out where people are regaining their power, if people need blankets. We're advising them of warming centers, seeing if there's any medical emergencies, checking on the elderly, young children, things like that.
WBER: The guard troops were gathering for their unit's Christmas party Friday when Missouri's governor mobilized them. For a few people, they've been too late. Some residents trying to heat their home with generators of charcoal have been killed by carbon monoxide poisoning.
Unidentified Man #1: Okay. Are you okay? Is there anybody else? Is there anybody else in this building? Okay.
WEBER: They've also been finding more houses with the light on, like Marcia Winfrey Woodlands, who had lost power for three days.
Ms. MARCIA WINFREY WOODLANDS: Whenever there's a power outage, this side of the street always loses it. What is this, the odd side of the street, always loses some power. But when we regained ours, this time, they went out across the street, theirs went out.
WEBER: Officials with the utility AMRON are warning residents here that it will be a few more days before all power's restored, and that means some might go as long as a week in the dark. And that's becoming all too familiar for some in St. Louis. The power outage in July was the biggest in the region's history with power out in some areas as long as nine days.
This time around, many residents are bunking with friends or family with power, though a number of city buildings had been converted into heating centers. And as Red Cross supervisor Don Abbey looks out over gymnasiums filled with cots, he recognizes some of the faces. This time, though, he has his own problems back home.
Mr. DON ABBEY (Red Cross Supervisor): I live about 130 miles from here, north. We ended up with about 20, 23 inches of snow.
WEBER: The same telephone hotline that was set up during the summer is being used again, which is how Clement Salouphou(ph) found refuge from his cold apartment in the St. Louis suburb of Fluorescent(ph).
Mr. CLEMENT SALUFOO: It's not as bad as some other people are. When I look back, I look back at the people in New Orleans, who are still not on?
WEBER: Did you lose power in the summer too?
Mr. SALUFOO: Yes. Yes, six days in the summer months. But it was a little better in the summer months. Daylight lasts longer and you could have walked outside, which right now, you can't. You're very uncomfortable right now.
WEBB: Back on Claxton Avenue in North, St. Louis, as firefighters and National Guard troops get to the end of the block, they get a nice surprise.
Unidentified Man #2: The power just turned on right now.
Unidentified Man 3: We just got power on.
Unidentified Man #4: These guys just had power here.
Unidentified Man #3: Just got restored as we talked.
WEBER: With power restored to both sides of the street, they are now free to move to the next neighborhood to check residents there. Temperatures tonight are forecast to fall to the teens.
For NPR News, I'm Tom Weber in St. Louis.
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