Village of Colonie shelter provides comfort in midst of crisis

According to National Grid, at the peak of the event, there were 229,000 customers without service; 772,000 feeds of ordinary and secondary wire needed to be replaced; 3,000 individual services are being done; there are 350 broken poles; 150 damaged transformers; it took 68 tractor-trailers to take away damaged materials; 11,000 hotel rooms hold the crew members who were called in from Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut and other states to work on the repairs resulting in the use of more than 24,000 gallons of diesel; and National Grid has received more than 88,000 phone calls from customers.

Many at the shelters were forced to flee their homes, but realized the cost of staying in a hotel could become prohibitive after the first day or two so they turned to the shelter for a warm place to sleep and hot meal to eat.

Among those families was James Ault, his wife and eight children of Colonie.

Ault's family was able to stay in their own room at the shelter, their 10 cots covered in blankets and sheets from their own home. During the day, Saturday and Sunday, Ault and his wife took the kids out for holiday shopping to spend some time outside of the shelter. But while school was canceled Monday, the kids, ranging in age from 3 to 20, played cards and games.

By the time the Aults returned to the shelter Monday night, there was some good news for the family. Their power was back on. After three nights at the shelter, the family was able to return home.

"But it's still 48 degrees in there," he said.

Ault said he was thrilled that he and his family did not have to spend another night at the shelter, and he expressed his gratitude to the mayor and the American Red Cross for giving his family some place to go.

"It feels really good to be going home," he said.

Volunteers from the American Red Cross and from the Village of Colonie have stayed with residents in the shelter around the clock and said they are happy they were able to help so many people.

"If I could dream of a perfect disaster," said Siobhan Kent, communications associate for the American Red Cross. "This was one where not many people have been badly hurt.""

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