Warsaw Daily Times
Founded 1858 -5 cents per copy
Entered as Second Class Matter
P. O. Warsaw, Ind.
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ICE CUTS OFF ALL POWER IN AREA; COMMUNICATIONS DISRUPTED ACROSS NORTHERN INDIANA; SITUATION HERE DESCRIBED AS 'WORST IN HISTORY'
Normal existence, which depends on a steady flow of electric power to maintain its essential services and run 1001 gadgets was suspended Thursday as ice broke power lines in a radius of 100 miles around Warsaw.
Business was near a standstill and industry was paralyzed. Private citizens were "on their own." All schools were closed.
The power disaster came at 12:25 o'clock Thursday morning.
Thursday noon, Joseph H. Lessig, local manager of the Northern Indiana Public Service Co., issued this statement: "I honestly don't know, but we hope to have power restored here by night. This is the greatest and most costly disaster ever sustained by our company. It will probably be weeks before all transmission and distribution lines are restored to service."
R. F. Lucier, president of the United Telephone Co., also described the situation as the "worst disaster ever" for his company and predicted that it would be weeks before normal service was restored. Lucier said an attempt was being made to get emergency power to all exchanges and to establish communications east and west to Fort Wayne and South Bend. He said damage to telephone lines would run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The weight of ice formed by freezing rain broke the power lines in many places. Tree limbs snapped off, whole trees were felled and power and telephone poles were pulled down, completing the snarl of power and communication facilities.
Virtually all factories shut down and the bulk of stores and shops in Warsaw either failed to open Thursday or closed in a short time.
The freezing rain started Tuesday night, continued through Wednesday and reached its heights with thunder, lightning and high winds on Wednesday night. A total of 1.45 inches of water fell. A heavy coating of ice covered everything exposed. Above freezing conditions brought some improvement in road conditions Thursday.
The telephone Company maintained local service for "emergency calling only" by use of batteries from the time the blackouts started until 10 a.m. Thursday, at which time a generator purchased as an emergency item for wartime blackouts and brownouts was rigged up. All toll lines were out but two long-distance lines from Warsaw to Pierceton were still in operation.
Grocery stores and meat markets were expected to be hard hit unless the situation was relieved within a few days. Owen Emerick, local meet dealer, stated that frozen foods would begin to spoil late Thursday as at that time the ice would begin to melt in the locker. Meat lockers, however, will preserve the meat for several days. At 11:15 a.m. Thursday the meat lockers at Robinson's Market were at 37 degrees, cold enough to preserve meats for two or three days. All meat had to be hand-cut Thursday, since electrically-controlled slicers and grinders were not functioning.
The Warsaw Bottling Co. was virtually at a standstill. Charles Hughes, manager stated that ice cream was rapidly melting. "You can probably buy it cheap tonight." Some places were selling it at 10 cents.
Residents depending on electrically operated stokers huddled in cold houses or visited relatives and friends. Employees of most stores were sent home because stokers and blowers were inoperative and only emergency lighting was available.
Bakeries couldn't operate their ovens and dairies were hampered in their operations.
Most of the restaurants were opened here, serving customers under difficulties. Hardware stores were particularly busy, selling flashlights, bulbs and batteries. Candles, lamps and lanterns were used to light business places and homes. Oil and coal stoves were brought into use to heat cold homes.
Hatcheries depending on electrically operated equipment to keep settings of eggs at proper temperatures faced disaster in event of a long period without electricity.
The public service company used emergency gasoline motors to keep water pressure, particularly as a safeguard against fire.
It was a dramatic scene in the darkened and quiet sub-station in Warsaw at three o'clock Thursday morning as the enormity of the disaster began to unfold.
Power company officials and workmen, proud of their record and ability to maintain uninterrupted service through recent years, optimistically started attempts to repair local lines. When portable generators were rigged to the FM radio system connecting the various powerhouses and sub-stations in a hundred mile circle, the extent of the catastrophe became known.
Gloom and grim determination to do what could be done prevailed as the emergency radio reported lines down and no current for a radius of 100 miles.
NIPSCO trucks came and went, their brilliant headlights appearing strange in the utter darkness. Suddenly the absolute helplessness of the area was unfolded in one small incident. The trucks were running out of gasoline. The emergency crews would not be able to work, repair crews would be immobilized. Not an old-fashioned globe hand-pump could be found in town. Every filling station depended upon electricity to pump gas as did the power company.
Pitcher pumps were finally rigged to storage tanks to supply the much-needed fuel.
Later Thursday, local bulk plant tank trucks parked at their major stations and ladled out gasoline to stranded motorists, five gallons at a time.
The most simple functions of home lines and business slowed to a standstill and people became aware of how great way they depended upon electricity-harnessed and delivered.
Housewives caught with nothing but electric percolators, scurried from store to store to buy anything that would make a morning cup of coffee-without electricity.
Normally fortunate folks with oil-burners, gas-burners and other forms of automatic heating units began to envy neighbors with the old-fashioned furnace. Automatic systems would not operate.
It became impossible to make a phone call unless an emergency existed. In case of fire, the fire siren could not have been sounded to round up firemen.
"I couldn't even phone grandma to see if she was all right," one Warsaw a resident said.
The public service company maintained contact between districts by means of radio.
News wire services were, of course, completely cut off and all normal printing facilities of The Times and Union became useless. Emergency measures were adopted to avoid suspension of publication.
It was difficult to foresee what would happen on the local sports from this weekend. All county teams were slated to see action on Friday night; but it was almost a certain thing that several games would be postponed.
On the national front it was learned that Milwaukee was isolated by a 14-inch snowfall which drifted seven feet high in places. There was no transportation throughout the city. Several hundred railway passengers were marooned in the city. The fire departments were unable to answer some 40 fire alarms but no major blazes resulted. Even snow plows became stuck in huge drifts.
Electricity was off in Goshen and the situation there was believed to be similar to that in Warsaw and Plymouth.
No rail transportation existed between Chicago and Milwaukee. Every lobby in Milwaukee was filled with people. Six persons died in Wisconsin as a result of the storm. Iowa experienced snow, freezing rain and sleet.
A freak tornado at Montgomery, Ala., killed several persons and injured many.
In Warsaw, James Melvin Konkle, aged 79 died at 4:15 p.m. Wednesday at his home at 521 East Clark street. Funeral services will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Bibler funeral home, Warsaw.
The weather forecast for Indiana at noon Thursday: Rain, sleet and snow in north portion. Clearing and much colder tonight. Strong winds. Geneally colder Friday. Temperatures Friday from 12 to 32 to 15 to 35 in the afternoon.
Mrs. Janet Wagner, Richmond, suffered minor cuts and bruises in a three-car collision on Road 30 nearl Ridinger lake and was treated at the McDonald hospital, Warsaw.
A mudstorm was reported at Kokomo and other Indiana cities. Dust arising from terrific winds over western plains were felt in Indiana.
Times and Union Appreciates
Word of Praise in Letter from Claude Mahoney
Claude A. Mahoney, son of A. A. Mahoney, of Warsaw, now a radio News commentator in Washington, D. C., in a letter to The Times and Union, offers a word of praise for the enterprise shown in the publishing of a mimeographed sheet on the occasion of the recent power blackout. Mr. Mahoney's comments are greatly appreciated because, as a newsman of long standing, he fully realizes the helplessness of a newspaper when power and communications fail. A graduate of Warsaw high school and DePauw university, he won recognition as a special writer for the Indianapolis Star and later as White House correspondent for the Wall Street Journal. His letter follows:
"My father has sent me the mimeographed sheet you put out on Jan. 30 when the power was off. Was there more than one? They are collectors' items, and I would like any others if they were issued.
"It might interest you to know that not only have I shown it to all the people at CBS, but have exhibited it to the morning coffee-drinkers at the Round Table of the National Press club. Always I tell them that that represents the kind of newspaper spirit of the town I came from-never say die!
"Seriously, I did enjoy it, and I surely don't envy you the troubles you had. I think several points were brought out that are of great social importance-the shifting of local interest from all other points to the offices of the power plant, and the dependence of us all on electricity. In fact, I am talking about this sheet and some of the implications on a little feature program I have tomorrow morning, bringing out that some of the people of usual comfortable circumstances were wishing for their neighbors' hand pumps across the tracks.
"Congratulations on the sheet, and the news it got to the people when news was limited in transmission, or reception, rather. I suppose that only the people with automobile, or other battery radios could get news by radio."
CLAUDE A. MAHONEY.
Warsaw Daily Union Front page, Monday February 24, 1947
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