Andrew Dys

February 11, 2014

Snow and ice require checking on neighbors, elderly, shut-ins

People who can’t get out, can’t get to their kitchen for food, or who don’s have electricity need a helping hand.

The threat that more snow today and Thursday was expected to cripple travel – and possibly knock out power – pushed volunteers and neighbors out in force Tuesday to make sure vulnerable people are safe and have something to eat.

Help from able-bodied people if the snow cuts off travel or electricity is a crucial way for special needs people to weather the storm, emergency officials and special needs advocates said.

At the York County Council on Aging, dozens of people delivered meals to almost 900 people who depend on the food to survive. The staff at the council’s kitchen worked overtime Tuesday morning to prepare and package three days’ worth of meals so extra food could be delivered.

“Times like this, it is crucial that these people who can’t fend for themselves have something at home,” said David McAteer, the agency’s director of food service. “With the ice, it could be two days before our drivers can get out again.”

Volunteer Mary Ann Hill took extra meals, milk, fruit and more to each of 17 homes in Rock Hill, despite already-accumulating snow.

“These people depend on this, so we have to get out,” Hill said.

Retirees Ann and Bill Spencer said delivering to people who are shut-in is even more crucial with snow threatening to cut those people off from any way to get out.

“These people we are serving are the most at-risk in our community during a storm like this,” Ann Spencer said. “Some may not see anyone for two or three days after this.”

Ken Warlick, 79, a retired Winthrop University warehouse manager, is disabled with bad knees, so the meals delivered by volunteer Fred Angerman are vital to him. If the power goes out, Warlick said, people just like him can’t do anything about it.

“I worked through storms like this, and now at my age I can’t get around,” Warlick said, “so I know that people out there need their neighbors, their friends, to check on them – especially if electricity goes out.

“It could be a lifesaver for some people.”

If ice forms on roads and power is knocked out, some residential streets could be impassable for days, emergency officials warned. Checking on neighbors can best be done by people looking in on those who are already known to be vulnerable.

“People can make a real difference in the lives of others just by checking on others who can’t help themselves,” said Lesslie Fire Chief Larry McConnell, who also works for the York County Emergency Management Office, which is recommending such “welfare checks.”

For businesses, neighborly sharing can be the difference between crisis and survival. In the December 2002 ice storm that knocked out power for almost a week, several York County dairy farmers shared generators to make sure cows were milked.

For people in rural areas, the need for neighbors to look after each other is even more crucial, said Peggy Harshaw, whose husband was mayor of McConnells during that 2002 storm and who helped coordinate the generator sharing that saved several dairies.

“Country people need to prepare for the worst,” Harshaw said. “And we always try to look out for others. This is the time when we all have to be good neighbors.”

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