The St. Louis of Loretta Daly’s childhood is one of brick houses that soak up summer heat like ovens. The way to keep cool is down the block at the dime-store soda shop, one of the only places with air conditioning.
Now 71, the Fort Wayne resident got to relive a little bit of her past when she became one of thousands of people who lost power in a storm last week when the region was experiencing a record-breaking heat wave.
By early Thursday night, there were still 3,200 people without power – that is until another storm with estimated winds of 50 to 60 mph caused spotty damage and a new wave of outages.
It’s not surprising that people such as Daly are growing frustrated from going so long without electricity.
“I understand you have to get power to the hospitals and places like that first,” said Daly, who noted her area was one of the last to get power after 2008’s ice storm. “They should go first. They should. But we’re always last.”
Indiana Michigan Power announced Thursday electricity had been restored to about 95 percent of customers, with hopes that the 3,200 customers still without it would have power by the weekend.
But Thursday night’s thunderstorm might have foiled those plans, as 911 dispatchers received reports of more power outages, downed lines, downed trees and disabled traffic signals around the city.
I&M spokesman Dave Mayne said as many as 10,000 homes and businesses lost power because of Thursday’s storm, bringing the total of Allen County customers in the dark to about 14,000. The Fort Wayne area appeared to be “ground zero” for outages in the region, Mayne said.
“Now it looks like we have a lot more work to do,” he said. “It’s too early to make a prediction to when it will be fully restored.”
In the Briarwood Hills Neighborhood off West Jefferson Boulevard near Aboite Center Road, someone voiced their desperation with a sign: “I + M Please Help Us.”
Neighborhood resident said she did not know who put it there but was going to take a picture of it. She said the residents in the neighborhood who lost their power – including herself – got it back Wednesday night.
“We were all saved,” she said. “We were all very fortunate.”
For Daly, her Royal Drive home was apparently in one of several pockets that were still experiencing outages Thursday afternoon.
Luckily for her, her son and daughter-in-law live next door.
They hooked up a generator in their garage the night the power went out and fed lines to their refrigerator and Daly’s refrigerator and freezer. They also got a line to a fan in Daly’s living room, so she and her two dogs could cool off.
Thursday, the room with the fan was about 82 degrees, Daly said.
“I don’t know if I would’ve survived without a fan,” she said.
Daly’s daughter-in-law, Elaine Daly, said she and her husband bought their generator after 2008’s ice storm. The minute the power went out last Friday, she told her husband to “fire that thing up,” she said.
Without air conditioning, she and her husband moved themselves, their 20-month-old daughter and their two dogs to her own mother’s home – which did not have furniture yet because she had yet to move in.
“We’ve been posh camping,” said Elaine Daly, joking.
Still, Elaine said they worried a little about Loretta, who didn’t want to take advantage of any of the city’s cooling stations and wanted to stay in her own home, even as temperatures reached into the triple digits.
“I was determined that it was going to come back on at any time,” said Loretta about the power Thursday.
Though she never turns on the air conditioning until the temperature hits above 90 degrees, Loretta said she was feeling the heat more than usual in these hot temperatures. She went outside briefly to take care of some yard work at one point and became dizzy when she went back inside.
“How long could I have held out if you guys hadn’t been there to run those lines for me?” she said to her daughter-in-law. “How long could I have held out?”
But at 2:45 p.m., after going nearly six full days without power, Loretta didn’t have to worry about that anymore.
Right then, a light came on in Elaine Daly’s home.
Loretta then went out to hers and opened the door.
And there was the light.
“There it is,” she said with a smile. “I knew I left that one on.”
Archie Ingersoll contributed to this story.