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Convention Center Offers Great Escape

Sixty-six people traded their cold homes Wednesday night for the warmth of the Spokane Convention Center.

About twice that many showed up by mid-day Thursday, said Cec Hill, a Red Cross volunteer who came from Whitman County to manage the disaster shelter. Many newcomers spent two nights in the cold, and decided not to make it three.

“I didn’t want to put the kids through the torture of no heat anymore, not when (WWP officials are) saying five to seven days” until the power’s back on, said Jennifer Sivertsen.

As she spoke, Sivertsen changed the diaper on 7-month-old Isaiah, and a friend helped 2-year-old Adream find lunch.

Goldie Johnson, 86, insisted she could have outlasted the blackout in her South Hill retirement apartment.

“I was all right. I was going to stay,” she said. “But when the social director asked (if she wanted to go to the shelter), I didn’t say no.”

Johnson wasn’t sure she’d get a good night’s sleep on a cot, but was grateful for the hot coffee and meals.

Dorothy Rusk came to the convention center not to seek warmth, but to give it. The 80-year-old war bride held a hand-crocheted baby blanket in her outstretched arms.

“I was going to send this to Bosnia,” Rusk told a Red Cross volunteer in her still-thick English accent. “I thought, there’s babies around here who could use warm blankets.”

A recent widow, Rusk said it takes two weeks to make the blankets she gives away. “It’s my therapy and my charity.”

Cold-hearted thieves strike

Steve Cox borrowed his father-in-law’s portable generator to keep the lights on in his north Spokane house.

Cox set it up outside about 10 p.m. Wednesday and went inside to start a propane heater. He was still trying to get the heater going 15 minutes later when the generator quit suddenly, plunging the house into darkness.

“My wife went out to see what was going on, and there was a guy carrying the generator to his truck,” Cox said.

The man, who had an accomplice, threw the generator into the back of his pickup and sped off.

“It’s unbelievable. They were halfway down the street before I could get in my truck,” said Cox, who moved his family to Spokane from Los Angeles two years ago. “I came up here to avoid this kind of stuff.”

Destination: warm weather

As temperatures approach 90 degrees in Mexico, people are dreaming of a place where they can step outside to get warm.

Inland Northwest travel agents have been besieged by shivering residents seeking information on vacation spots, with several trips booked this week to Cancun, Puerto Vallarta and Phoenix.

“The storm has really made people want to get away,” said Libby Wisecarver, operations manager at Coeur d’Alene-based Time to Travel.

Added Tony McMillen of Spokane’s Global Travel: “Seattle is pretty cold, so why go there? I suppose you could go to Boise - at least they don’t have snow - yet.”

Tree bores through house

Don Snediker went to a Spokane Valley home Wednesday to repair damage caused by a fallen tree the night before.

What he found was the “most bizarre thing” he’d ever seen, the Capstone Construction supervisor said.

A 15-foot section of a 60-foot pine broke off, turned “perpendicular to the ground like a spear” and punched through the roof of the ranch-style home, said Snediker.

It didn’t stop there. It drilled through the bedroom ceiling and bore through the carpeted, oak floors. It stopped a foot from the basement floor.

“It skinned the bark off the tree like you’d skin an animal going through those hardwood floors,” Snediker said.

The homeowners escaped injury. When the tree crash-landed, they were huddled by a fireplace, trying to stay warm.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo Graphic: Extra coverage

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Staff writers Dan Hansen, Grayden Jones, Adam Lynn and Kristina Johnson contributed to this report.