Five nights after an ice storm that left nearly 230,000 residences and businesses throughout the Capital District without power, 31 dinner plates at a shelter set up in the Village of Colonie were filled with turkey, vegetables and a side of compassion.
On Monday, Dec. 15, many of the cots were empty throughout the Senior Citizen Center in the Village of Colonie, but the ones that were filled were filled by grateful residents of Colonie, Niskayuna, Voorheesville and other localities that have been without power for days.
In what was one of the last six out of 22 American Red Cross shelters still open throughout Eastern New York, the Village of Colonie provided two common areas of cots and a few separate rooms for individuals who needed privacy.
On a typical Wednesday, that same space would be filled by senior citizens practicing their square-dancing techniques. Village Mayor Frank Leak said he was still hopeful that by Wednesday, those staying at the shelter would be able to return to their homes and square dancing could go on.
In a 6 p.m. conference call between representatives from National Grid and several municipalities Monday, National Grid announced that the main lines in mostly all of the Capital District had been repaired and that many of the schools that were still suffering from a loss of power at the beginning of the week should see power by Tuesday.
All of the major power stations in Colonie, which are located on Wolf Road, Karner Road, Everett Road, Forts Ferry and Newtonville, were back on by Monday evening while many small pockets were still in the process of being fixed. There were still pockets without power in Latham and Menands as well.
In the same call, National Grid representatives gave a few statistics that showed the extent of what they are calling a winter storm event.
According to National Grid, at the peak of the event, there were 229,000 customers without service; 772,000 feeds of ordinary and secondary wire needed to be replaced; 3,000 individual services are being done; there are 350 broken poles; 150 damaged transformers; it took 68 tractor-trailers to take away damaged materials; 11,000 hotel rooms hold the crew members who were called in from Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut and other states to work on the repairs resulting in the use of more than 24,000 gallons of diesel; and National Grid has received more than 88,000 phone calls from customers.
Many at the shelters were forced to flee their homes, but realized the cost of staying in a hotel could become prohibitive after the first day or two so they turned to the shelter for a warm place to sleep and hot meal to eat.
Among those families was James Ault, his wife and eight children of Colonie.
Ault’s family was able to stay in their own room at the shelter, their 10 cots covered in blankets and sheets from their own home. During the day, Saturday and Sunday, Ault and his wife took the kids out for holiday shopping to spend some time outside of the shelter. But while school was canceled Monday, the kids, ranging in age from 3 to 20, played cards and games.
By the time the Aults returned to the shelter Monday night, there was some good news for the family. Their power was back on. After three nights at the shelter, the family was able to return home.
`But it’s still 48 degrees in there,` he said.
Ault said he was thrilled that he and his family did not have to spend another night at the shelter, and he expressed his gratitude to the mayor and the American Red Cross for giving his family some place to go.
`It feels really good to be going home,` he said.
Volunteers from the American Red Cross and from the Village of Colonie have stayed with residents in the shelter around the clock and said they are happy they were able to help so many people.
`If I could dream of a perfect disaster,` said Siobhan Kent, communications associate for the American Red Cross. `This was one where not many people have been badly hurt.“