Epic ice storm 20 years ago today

Today the weather may be docile, but 20 years ago, New York showed just how temperamental winter can be, even in March.“A major ice storm hit our region pretty hard,” remembers Sheryl Karch, Director of Volunteer Development at the American Red Cross of Greater Rochester, who was employed at the Rochester location during the storm as a Director, Office of Volunteer Personnel. “The Red Cross really had to mobilize quickly to help the huge numbers of folks who lost power in our area.”The “huge numbers” Karch is referring to includes the total number of people affected by the storm—603,750, according to Red Cross records. Due to the widespread loss of power, the Red Cross opened 67 shelters throughout the region to provide people with a warm refuge from the ice. At its peak, the population staying in shelters reached 3,900.The Red Cross is making sure that they are continually prepared for disasters like the Ice Storm of 1991 by holding a statewide shelter drill on March 19. “The Ice Storm of ’91 was certainly the largest-scale disaster we’ve experienced in this area for many, many years,” said Leighton Jones, Director of Disaster and Emergency Services. “We’ll use this month’s drill to ensure that we are prepared to respond to another disaster of that magnitude, or larger, at a moment’s notice.”During the ice storm, the Red Cross served over 75,000 meals and snacks to shelter residents and provided 6,000 families with financial assistance. Overall, the storm cost the Red Cross nearly $2.1 million. Another local disaster of that scale would require an equally or more costly response from the organization.“We operate solely on donations, so any contribution you can make to the Red Cross helps us be prepared for emergencies,” said John Buttrill, CEO of the American Red Cross of Greater Rochester. “Thanks to community generosity, we have the resources we need to be responsive in a timely fashion.”

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