Carmel opens high school as warming center after 5,000 people lose power

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CARMEL, Ind. - A bitter cold day turned worse for many in Hamilton County who found their homes didn't have power Wednesday morning.

At the peak of the outage, 5,000 customers were without power. In Carmel, the fire department reported 1,300 homes were without power.

Hamilton County Emergency Management executive director Shane Booker said the outage started after a wire used to protect from lighting strikes came loose.

"That had touched other wires creating a short," Booker said. "That tripped a lot of different breakers throughout the area."

That led officials to get Carmel Clay Schools to open its high school as a warming center for people to go.

The warming center was scheduled to stay open until 7 p.m. and serve as a place for people to escape the cold. A school district spokesperson said only two people stopped by.

By 1:30 p.m., Duke Energy reported that only 200 customers were still in the dark. All customers in the county had power again by the end of the work day.

Classes were canceled for the day due to the low temperatures leaving the building open for the public.

Amy Hibbert was one homeowner who had to go without power.

"I was downstairs having my coffee and it went out right at 8:04," she said. "Just shut off."

Hibbert is a mother of three, including one child with autism. Her house had already dropped to 60 degrees inside and the family was looking for ways to stay warm.

"We started off with just pajamas," Hibbert said. "Then it got to jackets and then I had to put on gloves and a hat."

After three hours, the power was restored to the Hibbert home and her Noblesville neighborhood.

Extended time without power can be dangerous for the health of your home and firefighters said it was so cold that you'd start to feel it quickly.

"When its 30 degrees out you can keep everything closed and its going to be some time, but when it is this cold its going to cool significantly faster," said Carmel Fire Department spokesperson Tim Griffin. "If it's for a significant amount of time you want to make sure people have a place to go get warm and safe."

Griffin and Booker each said officials in the county were monitoring weather conditions and the power grid. If outages came back they would consider turning the high school into an overnight shelter, which would need the help of the American Red Cross to set up cots and serve meals.

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