Archive for Saturday, December 15, 2007

Family watches over homes powerless for days

December 15, 2007


Bundle up for another round

With much of northeast Kansas still dealing with the remnants of this week's ice storm, Mother Nature delivers another round of nasty winter weather. Enlarge video

Cold temps, snow expected through today

After a Heavy Snow Warning expires at noon today, light snow is expected to fall periodically during the cold and windy afternoon, according to Jennifer Schack, 6News chief meteorologist.

The accumulating snowfall from Friday night may last through 10 a.m., Schack said, but it will taper off in the afternoon.

She said half an inch to one inch may accumulate in the afternoon.

"The morning will be chilly because of strong winds in the single digits," she said.

Today's high may reach 25 degrees.

Bailey Thornsbury, 17, of Ottawa, said it's a good day to "stay in and be bundled up."

According to the National Weather Service, an upper-level storm system was moving across the southern Rockies and hitting the Central Plains. As it continued to move east, it was expected to snow up to several inches in Kansas.

Doing daily chores has taken on new meaning for one Jefferson County family, thanks to an ice storm this week that left thousands of residences and businesses without electricity.

When their relatives took refuge in a Lawrence hotel Tuesday, Malcon Orji and his wife, Mandolin Veerkamp, remained at the family homestead watching over three houses.

"They are keeping the fires burning," said Jennifer Veerkamp, Mandolin's mother.

In a rural area a few miles north of Lawrence, Orji and Mandolin Veerkamp were feeding woodburning stoves in two of the houses, making sure water pipes didn't freeze. A third house didn't have heat because its gas furnace needs electricity to run.

"We're going from house to house checking on things," Mandolin Veerkamp said, as she held her 9-month-old son, Uchenna. Orji, a native of Nigeria, said he was used to power outages in his country. But he noted they usually lasted only a few hours at a time. Orji and his wife have been married three years, and he is still getting used to Kansas winters.

"The cold is very hard on my body," he said with a chuckle.

In Lawrence, Jennifer Veerkamp and the rest of her family - six adults and two children representing four generations - obtained rooms at the Marriott SpringHill Suites, 1 Riverfront Plaza. The oldest of the family, an 87-year-old great-grandmother, was to have surgery Friday.

"She's on oxygen, and we had no choice but to go to a motel," Jennifer Veerkamp said. "The shelters couldn't accommodate her."

A short distance from the Veerkamp residences, Jerome Rofkahr, 76, was staying alone in his house. His wife, Gaylene, was staying with a son. Rofkahr said he needed to take care of his cattle and goats.

"You can't let them freeze up," he said. "They have to have feed and water. And I don't want my pipes to freeze."

Rofkahr kept warm by using a propane space heater.

"I got this stove a year ago to warm up my workshop out in the garage," he said. "It's one of those that doesn't need to be vented on the outside."

Rofkahr said he has plenty of food, which he cooks on a camping burner connected to bottled gas. At night he sleeps under a pile of blankets.

"It gets darker here than a foot up a cow's nose," he said with a laugh.

Rofkahr and the Veerkamps receive electricity from Leavenworth-Jefferson Electric Cooperative in McLouth. The families said they had not been able to get through to the company by phone because the line was always busy.

"That's just like spitting in the wind," Rofkahr said. "You get more on you than you do on them."

According to the Kansas Electrical Cooperatives' Web site, which includes Leavenworth-Jefferson, 1,500 customers remained without power late Friday in Jefferson County. A message posted on Leavenworth-Jefferson's Web site said power might be restored to the county by tonight.But in Valley Falls, power might not be restored until Tuesday.

Westar Energy, which provides electrical service to most of the county, said on its Web site Friday that more than 700 customers were without power.

Rofkahr said he simply gave up waiting on a crew to remove a power line that had fallen low enough in a driveway that he couldn't get his tractor through to his animals.

"I knew (the line) was dead. I finally got a pole and propped it up," he said.

Overall, the power situation was improving, Jefferson County spokesman Linda Buttron said.

Emergency shelters were still providing warmth, food and beds, but few people were using them Friday, she said.

Jennifer Veerkamp said she was concerned about a snow storm that was expected to arrive in northeastern Kansas on Friday and today. Although SpringHill Marriott had given a discount on the rooms, having to remain at the suites was becoming expensive for her family.

"We're just horrified that we're spending all this money, but we have nothing else to do," she said.

One Jefferson County school district - Oskaloosa - reopened classes Friday after schools were closed for three days. McLouth public schools remained closed.

Places to stay

Here is a list of overnight shelters in Jefferson County:

¢ Living Water Church, a half-mile west of Oskaloosa on Kansas Highway 92, 16 beds available along with food and water.

¢ McLouth fire station, 206 Lucy St., 12 beds available along with food and water.

¢ Winchester Community Building, 411 Spruce St., 48 beds available along with food and water.

¢ Ozawkie City Hall, 524 Kiowa Dr., food and water available. Bring your own blankets and bedding.

¢ Nortonville, St. Mathews Lutheran Church, 311 Elm St., 75 beds, food and water available.


Dixie Jones 10 years, 4 months ago

spitting in the wind? Well dont think that for one second that the LJEC crews along with out of state contactors are not working hard to get everyone on. Trust me they dont like you having no power anymore than you do. hope you have power soon and that everyone is safe and sound.

matahari 10 years, 4 months ago

"It gets darker here than a foot up a cow's nose," he said with a laugh.

haha, I am sure I know what the other word is that could have been used in this quote! Too funny! But sounds like this is a hearty bunch. I am sure they will fare ok. I bet it's a big change from the hot desert sun!

Angie Dick 10 years, 4 months ago

I have to say this ice storm has really SUCKED. My parents have been without phone service and electric for 6 days now! They tried running generators (yeah 30.00 a day for fuel) that is only like 10 gallons of fuel and it only lasts about 9 hrs. thank goodness the have a fireplace, so they can burn wood to keep the pipes from freezing. They have had to turn off all the water supply to the house, Everything in their freezer's and refrigerator has went bad. There are limbs down every where and I am sure there will be some damnage once it's all over with. They tried to aplly for fema to help. The website saidkansas hasn't been declared as state in need of emergency. But from the news it says it has? By the Gov. and the President? Call the # their closed. Try to call the electric co they have. Busy, try to go to office? ha ha They don't answer the door it is locked. I understand it takes time for repairs. But Think all those people being misplaced ect.? Or the money they have lost due to food spoilage? Trying to pay for fuel for generators? It really sucks. Thank the great lord above, I have electric and I have a place to keep them warm. Yeah it isn't fun, They are sleeping on twin mattresses on the floor and there is 8 of us fighting for 1 bathroom but we are getting by. It causes a great depression, considering, they have spent all their Xmas money on fuel and once they get power. They have to purchase all new food (try having intire deep freezer full of food go bad?) Not all may be a waste but most is. Just not a fun place to be in during the Holidays!

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