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Gimmie Shelter

With the winter storm disrupting power and travel this past weekend, many McCreary County residents found themselves without electricity for extended periods of time.

At its peak, almost all of McCreary County was without power for more than an hour Friday night, but over the course of the weekend hundreds more residents had no electricity for nearly three days.

With the cold temperatures descending, those families were endangered by the lack of heating; others with medical conditions were in peril from lack of access to the roads.

Terry Baker, McCreary County’s Red Cross representative, says he was disappointed by what he felt was a lack of response from County officials in setting up and advertising the availability of shelters for those affected by the cold.

Baker states he worked with EMS/911 Director Jimmy Barnett and Assistant Director Willie Duncan to set up the Senior Citizens Building at the McCreary County Park. Cots and blankets were brought in, and the McCreary County Water District set to provide a generator, with RECC ready to hook it up if power was lost.

Baker was at the shelter Friday evening, but was informed that no calls had come in to 911 from citizens needing assistance. He went home, only to return about an hour later when one family with a young child alerted 911 of their need.

Baker and the family spent the night in the shelter, with Barnett and Duncan bringing food and drinks during their stay.

But Baker believes more people would have been able to use the facilities if more notice had been given to the public.

McCreary County 911 did post a notice on their Facebook page informing citizens that a shelter would be operating in McCreary County at the park and advising residents to contact 911 for information.

The notice was posted at 5:33 p.m. on Thursday afternoon, but only as a reply to a comment stating emergency plans were being activated and updates on shelter locations would be forthcoming.

But that notice was not broadcast over the McCreary County scanner frequencies, nor conveyed to local radio, television and media organizations.

It also failed to account for individuals without internet access.

McCreary County Judge Executive Doug Stephens said Tuesday there were several places designated as shelters across the county, such as the Pine Knot and Holly Hill Fire Departments, the Lord’s Café in Stearns and a Rattlesnake Ridge location were available if the need arose.

“If we knew we had a legitimate need, we were ready to provide,” Judge Stephens said. “We felt we had different parts of the county covered with possible shelter locations.”

If 911 had received calls from citizens needing assistance, “We were ready to pull the trigger,” he said.

Stephens said cost was not an issue, and the option to notify the Red Cross and ask for their assistance was not needed due to the lack of calls for help.

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