By Lance Mihm
Shelters for people without power were set up throughout Mercer and Auglaize counties Thursday to give residents relief from the cold temperatures.
A press release from the American Red Cross listed shelters at the Wayne Street United Methodist Church in St. Marys and Auglaize Acres in Wapakoneta. A shelter was also opened at 3 p.m. at St. Paul United Methodist Church in Celina and a family with a small baby spent the night at that facility.
The Auglaize County Sheriff's Department reported shelters also set up at the Mercer/Auglaize Family YMCA in Celina, The St. Joseph Parish in Wapakoneta, the Holy Rosary Church basement in St. Marys and Wapakoneta Manor Nursing Home.
Several facilities set up shelters throughout the day in Auglaize County, also lost power and people were referred then to the junior fair building at the fairgrounds in Wapakoneta.
"We fed about 80 people last night," fairground secretary Fred Piehl said. "About 40 people stayed the night. We have a generator going that is providing power to most of the building, and it is heated. There are toilet facilities available." Piehl said as residents' homes continue without power and the homes cool, more residents, primarily from St. Marys, are expected to show up today.
"It won't surprise me to have at least a 100 here tonight," Piehl said. Rev. Kenneth Alt also reported there was a shelter at Mary Help of Christian Catholic Church in Fort Recovery scheduled to open at noon today. Hot meals, shelter and restroom facilities are available.
"We will stay open as long as we are needed," Alt said.
YMCA executive director Allen Baskett said about 10 people spent the night at the YMCA in cots placed in one of the gymnasiums at the facility. Wright State University-Lake Campus provided breakfast this morning for the group.
"We are trying to get the word out to people that they can come here," Baskett said. "That has been the biggest problem. As it gets colder and people go without power, we expect more people will come tonight."
Baskett said most people left after breakfast to go to their jobs or after hearing reports that power at their homes had been restored.
The shelters at Wayne Street Church and Holy Rosary were short-lived before losing power, and the people were directed to the fairground facility. A special needs shelter for Auglaize County residents was set up at Auglaize Acres for elderly or people needing special medical attention. As of this morning, the center had 46 people and expected to receive more.
"We are prepared to keep the shelter at Auglaize Acres open as long as we need to until people have their power restored," said Doug Strohl of the American Red Cross. "We are not going to leave them out in the cold without power."
A special needs shelter was also set up for Mercer County at the Miller House in Celina, the Red Cross reported, but no residents showed up Thursday.