Date: 1/29/2009

Associated Press Writer

PADUCAH, Ky. (AP) — Storm-battered residents of several states hunkered down in frigid homes and shelters Thursday, expecting to spend at least a week without power and waiting in long lines to buy generators, firewood, groceries and bottled water.

Utility companies in Missouri, Kentucky, Ohio, Arkansas and West Virginia warned that the estimated 1.3 million people left in the dark by an ice storm wouldn’t have power back before Saturday at the earliest, and at worst, as late as mid-February.

Already, the situation was becoming dire for some communities in Kentucky, where the power outages crippled pumping stations and cut off access to water. Tracie and Jeff Augustinovich drove 15 miles from their home in the western Kentucky town of Rock Castle to buy groceries. Their home had very little running water, and though they stocked up before the storm, they weren’t sure their supplies will last.

“We’re buying up anything that we can eat cold,” Tracie Augustinovich said.

In Paducah, Amber Fiers and her neighbor Miranda Brittan tried a half-dozen filling stations before finding one where they could buy kerosene. The two were in a line that swelled to 50 or more at the 13th Street Station, which began pumping kerosene after its owner set up a generator.

“We got food, but I’m just worried about staying warm,” said, Brittan who lives in Mayfield, adding she was frustrated by the search for supplies.

“By the time you hear about a place that’s open they’re out when you get there,” she said.

Utility crews found themselves up against roads blocked by ice-caked power lines, downed trees and other debris. Help from around the country was arriving in convoys to assist the states with the worst outages. But with so many homes and businesses in the dark — there were more than 600,000 across Kentucky alone — the effort is still expected to take days, if not weeks.

At a mall turned into a staging area in Barboursville, W.Va., crews in hard hats met alongside piles of poles, generators, wire and other supplies to find out where to go first.

“We’re attacking it head on,” said Appalachian Power spokesman Phil Moye. “As long as the ice is still on the trees, the storm is still here.”

St. Louis-based AmerenUE said it had added 800 workers to its efforts to restore power in southeast Missouri, and another 800 were expected Friday.

“As we restore some, we’re losing others. The ice is just so treacherous,” said utility spokeswoman Susan Gallagher.

Federal officials are hauling truckloads of water, ready-to-eat meals and large generators to a staging area at Fort Campbell in southwestern Kentucky, said Mary Hudak, a spokeswoman for FEMA’s southeast region. The supplies are expected to arrive Friday.

Hundreds of shelters opened their doors, and deputies in some communities went door to door to let people know where they were. Since phone service and Internet connections are spotty in many places, there wasn’t another way. In Harrodsburg, Ky., where phone service was restored, residents were asked to call 911 if they needed transport to shelters, said John Trisler, the county’s judge executive.

In Caruthersville, Mo., near the Tennessee border, church leaders and other volunteers knocked on the doors of the elderly and handicapped residents to make sure they were all right. A generator was in use to distribute some water in town, but Fire Chief Charlie Jones had concerns about what would happen when the temporary measure ran out.

“We’re definitely worried about the community with no power, no water. Restaurants aren’t open and there are no (open) fueling stations,” he said.

In central Kentucky’s Radcliff, John and Elsie Grimes lost power Monday night and needed police help to get out of their trailer and to a shelter Thursday morning set up by the local NAACP.

“I’ve been sitting ’round for two days, eating cold hot dogs and bologna,” said 70-year-old John Grimes, who uses a wheelchair, is blind in one eye, and a diabetic.

Since the storm began Monday, the weather has been blamed for at least 26 deaths, including six in Texas, four in Arkansas, three in Virginia, six in Missouri, two in Oklahoma, two in Indiana, two in West Virginia and one in Ohio. Emergency officials feared that toll could rise if people stay in their homes without power for too long, because improper use of generators can cause carbon monoxide poisoning.

Some decided to tough it out anyway. As icicles began to melt from the electrical wires and crashed to the ground Thursday, Jimmy Eason of Velvet Ridge, Ark., carefully walked across his yard to his Ford F-150, which was warmer than his one-story, white house.

“I’m sleeping in a car, which is just fine,” Eason, 74, said. “There’s nothing wrong with a car. Every couple of hours I turn it on, I let it run for 10 minutes and that keeps it pretty warm.”

Eason was trying to avoid boredom, and drove to Burger King to get a meal because he was tired of eating cold soup. “It’s kind of a chore to occupy your mind. I’m used to doing things and keeping busy. You just have to endure a couple of days and it will be all right,” he said.


Contributing to this report were Associated Press Writers Dylan T. Lovan, Brett Barrouquere and Bruce Schreiner in Louisville, Ky.; Daniel Shea in Velvet Ridge, Ark.; John Raby in Charleston, W.Va.; and Betsy Taylor in St. Louis, Mo.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.

Date: 10/4/2008 1:58 PM

Associated Press Writer

GALVESTON, Texas (AP) _ The final hours brought the awful realization to victims of Hurricane Ike that they had waited too long. This storm wasn’t like the others, the ones that left nothing worse than a harrowing tale to tell.

George Helmond, a hardy Galveston salt, watched the water rise and told a buddy: I was born on this island and I’ll die on this island.

Gail Ettenger, a free spirit who adopted the Bolivar Peninsula as her home 15 years ago, told a friend in a last phone call: I really messed up this time.

Within hours, the old salt and the free spirit were gone as the powerful Category 2 hurricane wracked the Texas Gulf Coast on Sept. 13, flattening houses, obliterating entire towns and claiming at least 33 lives.

The dead — as young as 4, as old as 79 — included lifelong Galvestonians firmly rooted on the island and transplants drawn by the quiet of coastal living.

Seven people drowned in a storm surge that moved in earlier and with more ferocity than expected. Nine others died in the grimy, sweaty aftermath, when lack of power and medicine exacted its toll. Eleven people were poisoned by carbon monoxide or killed in fires from the generators they used in their own attempts to survive.

Hundreds of people remain missing three weeks after Ike’s assault on Texas. Local and city officials are no longer keeping their own count of missing residents, and the estimate varies wildly from one agency to another.

According to the nonprofit Laura Recovery Center, about 300 people are missing. Of those, about 200 from Galveston. However, the number “goes up and down by the minute” as people call in to remove or add names, cautioned executive director Bob Walcutt.

Some vanished during the evacuation of towns in the storm’s path. Many were last heard in desperate, last-ditch calls for help.

Immediately after the hurricane, Galveston officials conducted door-to-door searches for survivors and possible victims. But the city is no longer taking an active role in the search, city spokeswoman Alicia Cahill said.

Instead, search teams of sheriff’s deputies, volunteer firefighters and special K-9 search and recovery units have been using airboats and all-terrain vehicles to sift through debris fields, tangled and fetid marshlands, and the rubble left behind by Ike.

Bodies could have been tossed anywhere in the marshes, where thickets of trees are littered with the contents of houses. Refrigerators, office chairs, and television sets are scattered everywhere __ in the mud, in bushes, on treetops.

“We are definitely looking and are going to do anything we can to find them, but there may not be any answers to be given,” said Galveston County emergency management spokesman Colin Rizzo. “There are definitely going to be people from Hurricane Ike that are never found.”

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.

As the weather improves, the impression might be that risk of Carbon monoxide exposure is lessening. While in terms of total numbers such might be the case, spring and summer do come with significant risk factors for CO poisoning. Seriously, the spring and summer risk factors are often the kind that carbon monoxide protectors are not available to warn of exposure.

The first risk factor that comes to mind is severe weather. With severe weather, comes power outages and ad hoc attempts to replace electrical power with either flame generated light or portable electric generators. While candles aren’t too dangerous, any other flame inside can come with significant CO exposure.

Electric generators are a particularly dangerous risk because not enough care is taken to make sure that the engine that generates such power, if properly vented. For potential risk factors from portable generators, click here.

Here are the basic rules when using portable generators:
Here are the basic rules to avoid CO exposure when using a portable generator:

Always use generators outdoors.

Keep generator exhaust away from air that flows into a building. But also make sure it is away from windows, doors and vents. The venting part can be critical. Many of the tragic stories we have heard this winter was from indirect exposure because an engine source (like a generator) was too close to an air intake vent.

Garages, basements, crawl spaces, are not OUTDOORS.

Follow manufacturer’s instructions. This presumes you can still find the instructions. Hopefully they are printed right on the generator itself. If not, look them up online. Keep in mind that exhaust that can get into your living area can kill you.

Use CO detectors, and make sure they are working, that the batteries are replaced when needed. Remember that smoke detectors, are not CO detectors. You can have CO exposure with no smell of smoke and without a smoke detector going off.

Next Post: Other Warm Weather risk factors.

It is probably just the perception from what makes the national news, but Pennsylvania seems to be the hardest hit this winter for Carbon Monoxide poisoning. The latest story to make news on Carbon monoxide exposure takes place in Altoona, PA, where a family of 5 was treated for exposure. The family was exposed to a CO level of 500 ppm, as opposed to what is considered a safe level of 9 ppm. That is more than 50 times a safe level. For more on this story, click here.

One of the disturbing parts to the story is that the the carbon monoxide levels were so high, that the smoke detectors were going off. Smoke detectors are not designed to detect even lethal levels of carbon monoxide, as it is not have the type of substance that leaves a tangible particulate in the air, which is what sets off smoke detectors.

Again, as always, I would remind everyone that a clean bill of health from hospital officials on the day of exposure, does not assure that there may not be long term health consequences. This is especially true with small children and older people. This family had a three year old and a two year old. Carbon monoxide exposure can cause a delay neurological symptoms DNS, which can appear 2 to 40 days after the exposure. For more information on DNS, click here.

As all eyes in the political spectrum turned to Ohio, and the plight of Youngstown is on every politician’s tongue, a man from nearby Vienna, Ohio quietly dies from carbon monoxide poisoning. In the wake of his death, paramedics put out a call for increased use of CO detectors.

The victim in this case was an aging man. The culprit an aging furnace. The combination, which happens so often with our elderly, is potentially lethal. The older the furnace, the more likely there could be a problem. The older the person, the more likely that where CO typically strikes first, the heart, will be adversely affected.

Check on your parents, check on your shut in friends. See to it that they have CO detectors, and make sure that they have had periodic maintenance on their furnaces.

It is winter, below zero here in Wisconsin this week, and I am warning about boating and carbon monoxide? As I joked to a friend who asked me about sailing – the water is a little hard right now.

Still, the carbon monoxide story of the day is a Washington Supreme Court Decision where a young woman died from carbon monoxide poisoning from swimming near the back of a boat: From that published case:



MADSEN, J. — Jay Colbert’s daughter, Denise Colbert, drowned after inhaling carbon monoxide fumes while hanging onto a motorboat as it was moving.


According to Mr. Colbert, at about 3:00 a.m. on August 3, 2003, he and hiwife Kelly were awakened by a telephone call from Kyle Swanson, the boyfriend of Mr. Colbert’s daughter, Denise. Mr. Swanson was quite upset. He told them
that Denise had disappeared from the back of a boat at Lake Tapps and a search was taking place for her. At about 1:30 a.m. Denise Colbert and others had gone for a boat ride aboard Marc Jacobi’s boat. Ms. Colbert and a friend were in the water holding on to the swimmers platform at the rear of the boat as it headed toward shore.1 After an hour and a half in the water, they decided to go swimming, and, as her friend stated, “[a]ll of a sudden she was gone. We were just swimming, and then she went under. There wasn’t a struggle or anything.”

Neither wore a life jacket. There was a placard on the stern prohibiting people from being on or near the swim platform when the engine was running, but Mr. Jacobi did not take steps to move Ms. Colbert and her friend. Mr. Swanson and others searched for Denise and Mr. Jacobi called 911; the call was received at 2:58 a.m.

A short time later Kyle Swanson called Mr. Colbert who took his other children to a neighbor’s house and then drove to the lake, about five minutes from their home. When he arrived, police cars, ambulances, and the fire department were at the scene. Mr. Colbert saw lights flashing from a boat on the water and knew the search for his daughter was underway. He drove to a friend’s house on the lake and watched the rescue operation from the friend’s dock. He hoped Denise would be found alive because Denise was an outstanding athlete with stamina and endurance, and she was a strong swimmer. Police Chaplain Arthur Sphar traveled back and forth between the rescue site and the dock to update Mr. Colbert about the search.

At some point after 6:00 a.m. rescuers found Denise’s body. Sphar relayed this to Mr. Colbert. About 10 minutes later Mr. Colbert saw a buoy pop to the lake’s surface. Because he could hear the dialogue from rescue workers on the
lake he knew what this meant — it was tied to Denise’s body. Mr. Colbert watched rescue boats move alongside the buoy. He saw Denise’s body pulled over the side of a boat by her arm. He averred that he could see rescue workers move Denise’s body once it was on the boat from about 100 yards away on the dock from which he watched. Mr. Colbert explains it was light enough that he could see this activity. Mr. Colbert saw an ambulance by the water, watched the police bring a
stretcher, put a sheet over Denise’s body, and take her away. He testified at a deposition that he was able to recognize the body as Denise’s. Chaplain Sphar said they could see a body being pulled from the lake, but added it was not
possible to see identifying detail from the dock. Denise had died about three hours before her body was recovered from the water. The cause of Ms. Colbert’s death was “drowning” with “ethanol toxicity” and “carbon monoxide” noted as significant. Her blood alcohol level was 0.12 g/100 ml.

Editors Note: The claim with respect to the death of the daughter was not at issue in the Appellate court decision. The disposition of the issues that were before the court in this decision were that the claims of the father for negligent infliction of emotional distress were dismissed, essentially because he was not at the scene at the time his daughter drowned.

Why did this drowning happen? Why did a strong swimmer drown within a few feet of safety? Why would a BAC of .12 cause such a result?

This happened for the same reason that almost all of the other cases discussed on this blog occurred: because Denise was in the wake of the exhaust of an engine, an engine that was spewing carbon monoxide fumes. Boating accidents are a surprisingly large segment of the carbon monoxide deaths. Boats are clearly one of the largest risk factors for carbon monoxide poisoning outside of the winter heating season. Manufacturers of boats put swim platforms on the back of boats, the same part of the boat such manufacturers funnel the engine exhaust. If people swim off the the swim platform, when the engine is running, they are a serious risk of carbon monoxide exposure. Unlike on land, where a moment of unconsciousness still leaves a chance of rescue, when swimming it can quickly turn deadly.

Is a mere warning about the risk enough? We think not. Swim platforms should no more be put where exhaust is vented, than boiler exhaust should be vented into swimming pools, another major CO risk factor. When swimming and CO mix, there is no margin for error.

This winter of 2008, there have been two well publicized mass shootings in my part time home state of Illinois, and many more mass killings from Carbon Monoxide. Even the election cycle news had to take a pause for the Northern Illinois tragedy. Nary a peep, except in the local media, about Carbon Monoxide’s rampages.
The first string of cases, was so predictable, I almost blame myself for not having found a bigger mountain top to have raised my cry of alarm: household generators. Any time there is a flame, and it is in an unventilated place, there will be a risk of CO exposure. Well the last few weeks has seen many storms. With storms, comes power outages. With power outages, comes the use of portable electric generators. My father spent his life designing such generators. Electric generators, when used properly, should not be a serious risk. But they were never intended to be set up in the kitchen, to operate the microwave.
More severe weather is sweeping across the nation this week. I fear that will be more power outages, more death from this silent killer. If you are in the business of selling portable generators, I believe you must include a CO detector with each purchase. That should be the law. I am sure the good businessmen who sell them warn people, but you can buy the little portable units almost anywhere now, and the corporate executives at Home Depot or Walmart, ought to just package the CO detector right with the product.
For more information on the dangers of portable generators, click here:
Here are the basic rules to avoid CO exposure when using a portable generator:
Always use generators outdoors.
Keep generator exhaust away from air that flows into a building. But also make sure it is away from windows, doore and vents. The venting part can be critical. Many of the tragic stories we have heard this winter was from indirect exposure because an engine source (like a generator) was too close to an air intake vent.
Garages, basements, crawl spaces, are not OUTDOORS.
Follow manufacturer’s instructions. This presumes you can still find the instructions. Hopefully they are printed right on the generator itself. If not, look them up online. Keep in mind that exhaust that can get into your living area can kill you.
Use CO detectors, and make sure they are working, that the batteries are replaced when needed. Remember that smoke detectors, are not CO detectors. You can have CO exposure with no smell of smoke and without a smoke detector going off.

The temperature is plummeting in the upper midwest, and the number of carbon monoxide poisoning cases is skyrocketing. This time it was Libertyville, IL. One man dead. The culprit, a malfunctioning hot water boiler for a car wash, in an enclosed space. That is a lethal combinations: a stressed boiler, a small room. No carbon monoxide detector installed. For complete details see,li-pjohnson-012908-s1.article

In theory, all fires (and a boiler, a furnace, a hot water heater, a fireplace, an engine are all fires) should occur in the open air where all fumes, including carbon monoxide will be dispersed below critical levels. Of course, the practicalities of civilized society is to bring the comforts of fire, indoors. Thus, comes the science and engineering of assuring complete combustion, which eliminates the risk of CO creation, and the science and engineering of complete ventilation of the exhaust of our controlled fires. But when science and engineering get translated into actual products and buildings, that must be designed, produced and maintained, there is always a risk of a break down, and the poison gas killing.

Engineers must always be on the watch for modifications of their designs and products, which could turn a well thought out design deadly. Maintenance people must always keep in mind the deadly nature of fire risk. Human occupants, must always remember to make sure their are carbon monoxide detectors to immediately warn of danger.

CARBON MONOXIDE POISONING SHOULD NEVER HAPPEN. SOMEONE WAS NEGLIGENT WHEN IT DID. Landlords, building owners must install carbon monoxide protectors to make sure that when all else fails, the potential victims of carbon monoxide, can get out in time.

Two more days, two more dead, and one in critical condition: The bodies of two Chickasaw, Alabama residents were removed from a home after apparently being poisoned by carbon monoxide. Click here for the breaking news.

It is three days since my last rant about hotels and carbon monoxide detectors, and once again 17 more people are hospitalized with dangerous carbon monoxide levels at a hotel. A hotel which is part of a national chain, a chain that does not require carbon monoxide detectors in each room. Comfort Suites. But this time it wasn’t comfort, it was nausea, headache and breathing problems that warned guests to call for help. Thank god they did. Click here for the excellent TV new story on this event in Jeffersontown, KY.

How can the hotel industry continue to ignore this risk? Do they breath a collective sigh of relief when no one, or as in the case of the Allentown, PA tragedy, only one person dies? CARBON MONOXIDE DETECTORS SHOULD BE MANDATORY IN ALL GUEST ROOMS. In Allentown, fire officials said a “tarp on the south side of the building likely forced the carbon monoxide from the hotel’s hot water heaters and recirculating the poisonous gas into the first-floor rooms and basement of the hotel.” See news story at

The hotel industry is a ripe place for CO poisoning, especially since when something goes wrong, so many are at risk. 17 people in Jeffersontown,KY, ten people in Allentown, PA, including one fatality. Click here for information on hotel exposures.

Even the hotel industries trade association acknowledges the risks, but nothing is done. The argument is that it would cost $100 million dollars to put detectors in each room in the United States. The lawsuits could add up to more, not to mention the cost in human lives. Click here for information on what states have regulations with respect to CO detectors in hotels.

Again, we remind everyone that a discharge with a clean bill of health does not guard against future problems, because of the delayed neurological symptoms that can occur. Click here for more information on DNS.