Weather forecasters are predicting another winter blast this weekend, but volunteer and emergency workers in neighboring Mayes County are thankful for what might be just a short reprieve.
Volunteers and temporary residents of the Pryor Graham Community Center shelter held a birthday party Thursday evening for one displaced Mayes County resident who was celebrating his 82nd birthday.
The birthday person, James Cowen was among 45 to 50 other people who have found refuge from the cold and ice storm in one of two Pryor city shelters.
The nearly week of unrelenting cold kept thousands of residents scurrying around in search of power and water in the primarily rural area.
Red Cross Service Center Manager for Rogers and Mayes Counties, Mark Ogle, and another Red Cross staffer, Maggie Bost, along with Rogers County volunteers Gene and Sonja Doles have been working the disaster relief efforts for the last week in Pryor.
Ogle said the Red Cross services were activated around 1:30 a.m. Saturday.
Above freezing temperatures and power restoration efforts Thursday allowed Pryor volunteers to combine the two city shelters. People who had been housed at the Methodist church were moved to the Graham Community Center next to City Hall.
Ogle said with warmer temperatures and work by tree trimming and power and water restoration crew, some people were even able to go home.
It is “still a day by day” decision as to how long the shelters will be open,” Ogle said. “We’re here for the duration.
“Right now there’s lots of melting going on, ice falling off lines,” he said. The storm’s impact, he said, “It’s unbelievable. It looks like a bomb went off. Trees are broken in half. Trees are uprooted.
“People have been coming in because they have no heat, no water. Some of them come in the middle of the night because they don’t want to leave their homes. But, they just get too cold,” Ogle said. “We have families, babies to people all the way up in their 80s.”
Community agencies and groups like the Sertomas and the city firefighters have been running emergency pickups when necessary.
“We’ve really become a community (at the shelter) and friends. People staying here ... everyone’s just pitched in. When we have an issue that comes up, someone has the answer. Like they say, it’s good when a plan comes together,” Ogle said.
In addition to Pryor, the Red Cross has been working shelters all across the disaster zone either as the primary providers or providing supplies and assistance. Shelters have been in operation in Chouteau, Salina, Locust Grove and Jay.