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After the storm

Remnants of Hurricane Ike combined with an approaching cold front that pounded the area Sunday have residents, many still without electricity, clearing their property of downed trees and limbs and repairing structural damages.
‘Pretty much the entire county was affected,’ said Greg Reas, director of the Harrison County Emergency Management Agency. ‘We were kind of blind-sided by the wind. One minute there was a wind advisory and the next we were under a wind warning.’
He believes the storm pretty much caught everyone in Southern Indiana ‘ from east to west, up to about Bloomington ‘ off guard.
‘At this point, we’re not anticipating opening a shelter but that could change if we continue to have water issues or an extended period without electricity or if we have many people needing shelter,’ he said. ‘We’re certainly keeping our options open, but it seems like having a place to stay isn’t a problem for people. It’s a matter of getting food or water. In the short term, we’ll refer people to the Red Cross.’
Reas said anyone with medical or water issues should call Harrison County EMS at 738-7391. Persons with an actual emergency should call 911.
He urges anyone with major or minor damage to their homes ‘ trees or branches through the roof, holes in the roof, roofs blown off or their home is uninhabitable ‘ to call 738-2195 and press 1 for dispatch, to report the damage for Reas to pass along to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. A representative from the federal level of homeland security was in Harrison County yesterday (Tuesday) to check on the scope of things to see if the county qualifies for federal aid.
‘We really need some damage assessment from all over the county so we can get some sort of snapshot of what we’re up against,’ Reas said. ‘Most of the damage seems to be trees on homes, lots of old barns blown down, but very few injuries … The thing is it could take anywhere from a few days to a week to restore everything.’
Use caution with food, water
In the wake of extreme weather, spoiled food may not seem like a major concern, but the risk of food poisoning from eating tainted foods is serious.
According to materials provided by the Purdue Extension Office-Harrison County, food in an powerless refrigerator will only last four to six hours without additional temperature control. Keep the temperature cool by adding bags of ice to the fridge. The more ice used, the cooler the refrigerator will stay and for a longer period of time.
At room temperature, foods like milk, meat, soups, pasta, legumes and vegetables can easily grown microorganisms that could cause food poisoning when ingested.
Frozen food can last longer, especially when kept in a properly insulated freezer. A full freezer can keep food sufficiently cooled for up to two days, even in the summer. A freezer half-full can last up to one day. Take note of the types of foods in the freezer, as well. Foods with a high water content, such as meat, will stay frozen longer.
Water safety is also a concern during power outages. Generators can operate water pumps as a back-up when the electricity goes out, but eventually water supply could be disrupted or contaminated. To purify water by heat, bring water to a rolling boil for 10 minutes. A pinch of salt added to each quart of water will improve the taste. To purify with chemicals, use chlorine bleach, iodine or water purification tablets. With bleach, it is imperative to check the label for hypochlorite. It should be the only active ingredient. Iodine should be the 2 percent United States Pharmacopeia strength. Add 20 drops per gallon of clear water; 40 drops per gallon of cloudy water.
Beware of CO poisoning
State health officials warn people when power outages occur during emergencies, such as the recent storms, the use of alternative sources of fuel or electricity for heating, cooling or cooking can cause carbon monoxide to build up in a home, garage or camper and to poison the people and animals inside.
Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless gas that can cause sudden illness and death if inhaled. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each year more than 500 people die in the United States from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning.
State health officials say each home should have at least one working carbon monoxide detector. The detector’s batteries should be checked twice annually, at the same time smoke detector batteries are checked.
Exposure to carbon monoxide can cause loss of consciousness and death. The most common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain and confusion. People who are sleeping or who have been drinking alcohol can die from carbon monoxide poisoning before ever having symptoms.
State health officials urge Hoosiers to follow the following carbon monoxide poisoning prevention tips:
‘ Never use a gas range or oven to heat a home.
‘ Never use a charcoal grill, hibachi, lantern or portable camping stove inside a home, tent or camper.
‘ Never run a generator, pressure washer or any gasoline-powered engine inside a basement, garage or other enclosed structure, even if the doors or windows are open, unless the equipment is professionally installed and vented. Keep vents and flues free of debris, especially if winds are high. Flying debris can block ventilation lines.
‘ Never run a motor vehicle, generator, pressure washer or any gasoline-powered engine outside an open window, door or vent where exhaust can vent into an enclosed area.
‘ Never leave the motor running in a vehicle parked in an enclosed or partially enclosed space, such as a garage.
If conditions are too hot or too cold, seek shelter with friends or at a community shelter. If carbon monoxide poisoning is suspected, consult a health care professional right away.
About those downed trees and branches
For persons who live in a residential area, debris should be stacked along the right-of-way, where it will be picked up as soon as the county can acquire chippers, which may take a couple of weeks.
Reas said county trucks cannot go on private property to retrieve the debris.
He suggested giving the debris away to those who may want firewood for this winter.
For those living in more rural areas or places with tree lines, Reas said residents could put the debris along the right-of-way or they could simply stack the debris along a tree line and let Mother Nature run its course.
Also yesterday, Harrison County issued a burn ban ‘until everything gets back to normal,’ Reas said.
In the meantime, people need to use common sense and don’t get on the roads unless they have to, he said.
‘Now is as good of a time as any to be neighborly,’ Reas said. ‘If you have a neighbor ‘ or an elderly neighbor, especially ‘ it’d be a great time to introduce yourself, or go door to door to see if people need help. If you have power and your neighbor doesn’t, take them some water, or invite them over for dinner.
‘It’s a good time for the community to pull together like they always seem to do in something like this.’