Residents flock to their hearths

Kentwood resident Antoinette Harrell heats up a pot of water in her fireplace to make tea while power remains out in her home.

Local residents got creative in enduring the frigid cold.

Especially those who lost power for an extended period of time sought warmth through generators, sleeping bags and blankets. They also made good use of their fireplace, if they were lucky enough to own one.

Kentwood resident Antoinette Harrell’s fireplace is serving multiple purposes these days – heat, light and stove.

“The fireplace gave me light, heat to be warm and food,” she said. “Those are the basic things a person can ask for right now – to stay warm and have some food.”

She bunkered down in that room and has kept the fireplace burning for over 72 hours.

“I really counted my blessings because there were so many people that did not have this luxury that I had,” Harrell said. “Although the rest of the house was ice-cold, the fireplace kept that room warm.”

Harrell said she will never again take for granted a cup of peppermint tea.

“The lessons I am using now came from my childhood,” she said.

Growing up as a country girl in Amite, she said her family had an old wooden pot belly stove where they would always keep wood cut and cook over the stove. She is also a fan of survivalist shows like “Life Below Zero” and “Mountain Men,” which taught her some techniques that she was able to put into action.

“I just wanted some hot tea and some soup and a nice pot of oatmeal, so I’ve been getting some nice hot food and staying warm,” she said Wednesday.

To cook in the fireplace, she put a disk from her induction stove on the wood and placed a copper induction pot on top, filling it with water.

She says it worked out just fine.

Amite resident Eunice Hall Harris was without electricity for over 30 hours this week due to the ice storm.

“Our fireplace has been running nonstop,” Harris said. “We have been burning firewood, and we have been sleeping around the room with the running firewood.”

To melt some cheese on a sandwich, she wrapped it in a piece of aluminum foil and put it in front of the fireplace.

She pointed out that not everyone has a fireplace to use. Harris stressed that preparedness was key.

Her husband prepared and cut a load of wood a few weeks ago in early January, which gave their wood some time to cure.

“I try to prepare for these times because mother nature dictates what happens; however, we must be prepared in case there are outages, a water shortage, a gas shortage,” she said, adding that access problems could exist where gas or Entergy trucks cannot get through.

Her family prepared ahead of time by listening to the weather everyday and having a backup plan in case services were interrupted. She also made sure she had supplies, flashlights, candles and rations.

“Every storm has its own uniqueness; there are no two storms that are alike,” Harris said. “One may cause a lot of broken trees or wind damage to homes [or] accidents on the highways ... every time we have a storm, we go back to the drawing board and prepare for it.”

Unlike a hurricane, which passes over leaving temperatures between 70 and 100 degrees, this ice storm left temperatures freezing.

“Just like we prepared for hurricanes, we have to for winter because we don’t know how it’s going to be,” she said.

According to Mike’s Seasoned Firewood, people usually use white or red oak to burn in their fireplaces at home.

They warn against getting wood that has not had enough time to dry out.

Wood needs about 8-12 months to really dry. Even then, unless split, the outer part of the wood will dry while the center is still wet.

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