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Format: 04/19/2014
Format: 04/19/2014


Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: Snow, bitter cold take heavy toll on ill, elderly

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010


By Chris Togneri

Georgiana and Clarence Myles have been married 66 years, but the snowstorm of 2010 might have brought them closer than they've ever been.

"It was so cold in the house, you could see your breath," said Georgiana Myles, 83, who lives with her 84-year-old husband on Sylvania Street in Beltzhoover. "You should have seen us, we were so close together in that bed trying to keep warm, we looked like one."

Bitter cold settled in over Western Pennsylvania on Sunday, a day after 21 inches of snow smothered Pittsburgh, creating stunning scenes, paralyzing transportation and cutting power to tens of thousands of residents. Even as people shoveled out their cars — creating snowbanks up to 6 feet high on some streets — many roads remained covered.

"It's nice for people who like snow," said Greensburg Fire Chief Ed Hutchinson. "For other people, it's a pain."

The harsh conditions — yesterday's low was minus 1 — were toughest on the elderly and people with medical conditions. Ross police took Ruth Kaminski, 70, of Bellevue to a warming center in the cafeteria of Northgate High School after her steam-fed radiators began to cool. Kaminski suffers from congestive heart failure.

"I can't be in 10-degree weather because it would constrict my arteries," said Kaminski, who remained at the shelter yesterday. "We had cots and pillows and blankets. It's not like home, but it's better than freezing."

The American Red Cross opened overnight shelters in Allegheny, Westmoreland, Greene, Washington, Fayette and Beaver counties, and provided cots and gear to countless other shelters run by municipalities, churches and fire departments, said Southwestern Pennsylvania chapter spokesman Brian Knavish.

Among those seeking refuge at Hamilton Presbyterian Church in Bethel Park were Molly and Bernie Nero and their daughter Claire, 14, who moved here from Texas 18 months ago.

"This is a shock," said Molly Nero, 44. "The coldest we've seen is 20 (degrees). ... We switched from 110 degrees (to this), but we're still laughing."

The Westmoreland County shelter was prepared to feed more than 500 people because of donations from restaurants such as Olive Garden, Red Robin and Eat'n Park.

Officials investigated whether three deaths are connected to the snowstorm.

The bodies of Joelle Mateya, 19, and George Mateya, 60, were found at 12:18 a.m. yesterday in their home on Milburn Street in McKeesport, according to the Allegheny County Medical Examiner's Office. A generator was running inside the home. Blood test results will show whether they died of carbon monoxide poisoning, investigators said. Carbon monoxide, a colorless, odorless gas, is often a byproduct of combustion heaters and generators and can be deadly if not properly ventilated.

Joseph Freyvogel, 57, was found dead in his North Side home about 10:20 p.m. Officials said he had last been shoveling snow at his sister's house.

At Allegheny General Hospital, North Side, several people came to the emergency room with storm-related injuries, including at least four people who sustained serious hand injuries from snow blowers, Dr. Dennis Hanlon said.

"We've seen open fractures or partial amputations," Hanlon said. "The snow blower gets clogged up and people don't realize as soon as the clog is removed the (blades) start spinning again."

To read more, visit the Tribune-Review website.

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