SUTHERLIN — Jessica King, 7, used green and almost only green in her coloring book at the Sutherlin Community Center while the snow continued to slush outside Wednesday.

The center operated as one of six warming centers in Douglas County as people in rural areas sought to escape home temperatures of 45 degrees or less.

“It was cold in the house,” Jessica said. “I didn’t know when we were going to get electricity.”

She was happy to sit and color and play Bunco with her grandma, Judi Erlien, and about 15 other people in the warming center that morning. Erlien said the only way they could keep warm at home was to stay in bed “which gets boring after a while.”

“We weren’t ready for this,” Erlien said. “I knew it was coming, but I didn’t know it would be this bad. I thought it would be done by now. I just glad this is open. It’s amazing that there aren’t more people here.”

The two were able to get to the center in a four-wheel-drive pickup, but Sutherlin Emergency Manager Dennis Riggs said most of the 75 people who had come between when they opened on Monday morning and noon on Wednesday came by foot.

“A lot of the (issues) have been transportation because of the conditions of the road,” Riggs said. “Hearing the stories of previous ice storms, that got my spidey senses tingling.”

The center is open as resources and personnel are available. Riggs said four people stayed overnight on Tuesday night, but they didn’t have the resources to stay open Monday night.

Michelle Cheney heard about the center when she flagged down a police officer performing a welfare check on a neighbor.

“We just couldn’t do it anymore,” Cheney said. “Three days of 42 degrees in the house. I put my boots on and I ran out there. I wish they would patrol every house. It gets so cold so fast.”

Cheney’s son, Raja Cheney, 22, has autism and faced greater anxiety than his mother.

“The power outage was completely unexpected to me and I had to exercise emotional flexibility,” Raja Cheney said. “It was very difficult. I thought it was devastating, having to cope with the actual fact that there was a power outage was a challenge to successfully take care of myself.”

Michelle Cheney agreed that the power outage put a bigger strain on Raja Cheney and people with mental disabilities than other people.

Lois Fraser said her neighbors pulled out their camping gear and shared what they had with her and her husband, John Fraser.

“Our neighbors gave us some very black pancakes,” Lois Fraser said. “They were warm, so they were good.”

Behind the kitchen counter at the center, people were making fresh pancakes and hot coffee and at one point someone came back with hot dogs to cook for people coming in.

“This is wonderful,” Lois Fraser said. “Wonderful.”

As of Thursday morning, much of Sutherlin had powered restored.

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Janelle Polcyn is the business reporter at the News-Review, graduated from the University of Texas, and is a podcast enthusiast.

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