Power outage evacuee: ‘Not the adventure I wanted’

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — While the signs on the Rapid buses that pulled up to an emergency shelter in Grand Rapids read “special” Friday. They should’ve read “nightmare.”

Bus after bus dropped off dozens of senior citizens at Union High School Friday, after they were forced to evacuate the Villa Maria retirement community. 

The senior living center lost power earlier this week, and as temperatures dropped, emergency officials decided to evacuate everyone over safety concerns. 

“This is not the adventure I wanted,” one resident joked as she was getting off the bus into the blustery cold..

“It’s very, very concerning,” another resident told 24 Hour News 8. “You could freeze to death.” 

The high school, which was otherwise empty due to a snow day, is one of two open by the American Red Cross in Grand Rapids to serve as emergency shelters, providing food and a warm place to stay. 

Julie Young also found warmth at the school. She lives at Heron Court, which lost power as well. 

“All the people in the nursing home and the assisted living (center) next door, we’re trying to figure out what to do. Some of their apartments are already at 54 degrees,” Young said, while scrambling to get residents inside the school.

Many seniors need special care and have special equipment, so having nearly 100 of them sleeping inside a gymnasium with other families without power is not ideal.

But Sheryl Ingram, who had to leave her powerless home at Westminster Meadows, was trying to stay optimistic. 

“I may be sleeping on a cot, but a cot is better than sleeping in the freezing cold,” Ingram said.

Consumers Energy says power may be restored to Villa Maria retirement community later Friday night. Even so, the Grand Rapids Fire Department has to give the all-clear for residents to return.

The Red Cross said it will stay open as long as people are without power, which could be until Monday.

If you’re without power and need help, call 211 for resources.

WARMING CENTERS/SHELTERS

IONIA COUNTY

  • Ionia Armory | 439 W. Main St., Ionia | Food and overnight shelter available. Call 211 for transportation assistance.
  • Rave | 850 E. Lincoln Ave., Ionia | Womena and children only

KENT COUNTY

MONTCALM COUNTY

  • Greenville Middle School | 1321 W. Chase St. | Shelter organized by American Red Cross
  • Have Mercy | 117 W. Cass St., Greenville 
  • Jesus Non-Denominational Church | 9206 West Peck Road, Greenville | Check availability by calling 616.550.4667; bring your own cot and bedding

MUSKEGON COUNTY

  • The Salvation Army | 1221 Shonat Street, Muskegon Township | 24-hour warming center through 5 p.m. Monday, Feb. 11
  • Whitehall Police Department | 405 E. Colby St. |  Warm up and get coffee 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

EMERGENCY PET BOARDING

People without power who have pets also have options. The Kent County Animal Shelter is offering free pet boarding for residents seeking shelter at Ottawa Hills High School, Union High School, North Rockford Middle School or the Walker Fire Department. 

Residents are encouraged to seek alternative housing first if possible, since space is limited.

Owners will register their pet with the KCAS before the animal transported to a boarding facility for the weekend. Owners should bring ID, vaccination reccords and any pet medications needed. Cats should also come in carriers.

Vaccinations will be given to pets without vaccination records and unlicensed dogs will also be licensed at no cost to owners. Pet owners will not be fined for unlicensed dogs during the emergency.

KCAS says support was made possible through the BISSELL Pet Foundation, C-SNIP, Humane Society of West Michigan, West Michigan Veterinary Medical Assocation, John Ball Zoo and other animal professionals.

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