News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

February 11, 2014

A cold night in Hymera: Getting Frozen Out

Car hits electric pole, knocks out power on a night low hits -16˚

TERRE HAUTE — Hymera residents suffered a double blow Tuesday.

Not only did they have to contend with bitterly cold temperatures that dropped well below zero, they also experienced a power outage about 2 a.m. when a car hit a transmission pole.

One 76-year-old woman and her son kept warm by staying in their car for several hours during the night.

When it appeared the power outage would last for several hours, the Sullivan County Emergency Management Agency contacted the Shelburn Fire Department, which set up a warming station at the Shelburn Community Building.

The Sullivan County Salvation Army Service Extension Unit arrived about 8 a.m. and provided food, drinks and blankets.

Among those who took advantage of the warming center was the 76-year-old woman, who asked to remain unnamed. “I’m really thankful for the fire department and Salvation Army,” she said as she ate lunch. “I’m grateful to be warm.”

She and her son were in a car most of the night trying to stay warm, she said. Inside the house, “You could see your breath,” she said.

She wouldn’t have known about the warming station if not for the efforts of Marvin Padgett, a member of Shelburn Fire and Rescue, who took a fire department service vehicle through Hymera and used a PA system to alert people to the warming center.

Also taking advantage of the warm shelter was Dawn Sweigert, who brought six children ages 1 through 10 — her two boys, her fiance’s daughter and three other children, who watched “Hotel Transylvania” to keep busy. “We came to get them warm,” Sweigert said.

Her fiance, John Norris, is a Shelburn firefighter.

At 11 a.m., nine people were at the Shelburn Community Building to keep warm, with plenty of Shelburn firefighters to staff it.

Jimmy Pirtle, Sullivan EMA director, said it was difficult to notify the Hymera community because there was no power, which is why the fire department used the service truck and PA system. Officials also tried cell phones, Facebook and word of mouth.

Pirtle coordinated with Fire Chief Larry Pinkston to open the warming center.

The Salvation Army Service Extension Unit made chili and peanut butter sandwiches and also had healthy snacks and drinks on hand, said Michele Smith, advisory council president.

The power outage occurred about 2 a.m. when a vehicle hit a transmission pole in Hymera. Initially, about 1,500 customers were affected, but within a few hours, Duke was able to restore power to all but 400, said Rick Burger, Duke Energy spokesman.

Power was restored before noon Tuesday.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or

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