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'Worst storm of season' turns out to be a bust

Hillsboro residents make the best of a rainy, chilly day

By DEBBIE MILLER

Contributing writer

If it wasn't for the flashing numbers on appliances needing reset and the click and whir of generators kicking on, most residents of Hillsboro and surrounding communities wouldn't have been aware that the power was down during the early morning hours of Saturday.

The City of Hillsboro reported outages in the city proper as well as Florence and Marion. Westar Energy also reported power loss in Lincolnville.

Westar, whose company motto is "Doing whatever it takes to keep the lights on," estimated that service would be returned in four to eight hours

Ed and Frances Walls, managers of Country Haven Inn, Hillsboro, went into action when the power blipped off at 3:53 a.m. to assure their 18 overnight guests a full-service stay.

Although a generator powered emergency lights, they began to flicker and fade out after just an hour.

The Walls made sure coffee was brewed and rationed out carefully to the early morning hunters, holiday shoppers, business travelers, and other guests who entered the lobby.

Candles, touch lights, and flashlights were placed at convenient locations to allow early risers to continue on their way.

One of the guests most concerned with the outage, likely caused by freezing rain and high winds earlier in the morning, was Mike Whiteley, whose daughter Manissa, a Tabor College student, was to be married at 3 p.m. to fellow student, J. Hull.

Whiteley frequently visited the motel lobby, checking on status of the power and weather with the Walls, as well as calling his daughter, who was at home at the college dorm.

Time was of the essence, as the hours left to prepare for this important day were scheduled to the brim.

A fellow guest offered to hook up his truck generator to the motel's power, but before he could, the power came back on at approximately 5:15 a.m..

"Wow, I didn't realize my generator was that powerful," the man joked.

After calling to make sure the dorms had regained power and his daughter's worries were allayed, Whiteley was able to proceed with the preparations for the day.

Later that afternoon, the bride and groom stood at the altar of Parkview Mennonite Brethren Church, facing their officiating pastor, Stephen Humber, and a beautiful, red poinsettia cross.

Pastor Humber reminded the couple that the day and the relationship was not about perfection, but about a promise.

As the couple said their vows, promising "to help each other, to give the love [one other] deserve, to develop [one another's] full potential" and, of course, "to love and cherish each other," Manissa's uncle watched the sun break through the clouds and rain outside, piercing the day with light.

As the bride and groom exchanged rings, Humber asked them to let "this sign of . . . love" remind them of their "precious and fragile" love.

The sunshine through the cloudy day and the clean, fresh dew after the weekend's rain and ice can remind us, too, that each day and its weather cannot be taken for granted.

Although this storm did not turn out to be the "big one" as predicted, the storms hitting the entire country this winter are expected to be colder, wetter, and wilder than usual.

Be ready for the next storm by making sure you have needed resources, whether that means flashlights, generators, coffee, and food, or neighbors, churches, or other places of shelter you can seek out in an emergency.

The story of this wedding day reflects perfectly the greater parable of the Advent season.

Be alert, be ready, and you will assuredly not be left out in the cold.

To find out where to go for emergency food and shelter this holiday season, contact the Hillsboro Ministerial Alliance at 620-947-5643 or Main Street Ministries at 620-947-3393.

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