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A few days ago, I spotted 18 utility trucks, some Nolin RECC and others I didn’t recognize, on Lincoln Parkway. I knew where they were headed – to some of the hardest hit areas of LaRue County with the recent ice storm.
Having not had electricity for 11 days, I know how frustrating it is to flip a switch and the light not come on, turn a faucet and not have hot water or not feel the warmth of a heat pump. I can imagine the frustration of those without power for two weeks or more.
The ice storm is the largest single disaster to ever hit Kentucky, with over 100 of Kentucky’s counties declared as federal disaster areas. We were one of the first counties in Kentucky to implement its disaster plan. Immediately we requested outside (state) assistance. However, help was very slow to materialize.
Perhaps the state didn’t realize the severity of the storm or possibly they were simply overwhelmed with requests for assistance. In either case, such help as the National Guard was not mobilized until the Saturday following the storm. The Guard was prohibited from doing any type of debris removal nor could they help open roadways. Their effort was limited to delivery of meals, water and humanitarian checks on residents’ well being. We appreciate the assistance as it was vital to provide food and water for those in need.
Such things as checking on fuel supplies, availability of kerosene for heaters and shelters for those displaced began the first day. I compliment everyone’s effort including our local business owners. With the exception of about a half day, kerosene for heaters was available for the most part throughout the storm period in LaRue County even though at times the lines got long.
The LaRue County Schools were terrific in their response and assistance. I contacted Superintendent Sam Sanders at 2:20 a.m. and told him we needed to implement our shelter procedure at the schools. He never hesitated and said “whatever we need to do to help, we will.” And that they did. Mr. Sanders personally assisted with the shelter, his wife Dee Anne helped prepare and serve meals. As a result, those who needed a warm place to stay and food to eat had it.
When the schools had to return to session, the City of Hodgenville and Mayor Terry Cruse graciously stepped up to ensure shelter services were continued. It would be impossible to mention all those that helped with the shelter and to those that did, I give a big thank you. Another person who should be personally thanked is Clara Druen. She was a part of the shelter nearly 24/7. As she has done in past emergencies, Clara Mae was there giving of herself to help others.
The road departments, both county and state, logged many long hours as did volunteer firemen, emergency responders, the Kentucky Department of Forestry and many countless neighbors and volunteers. They enabled our community to deal with an emergency without it truly becoming a disaster with the loss of several lives. When you have the opportunity, please tell these individuals and organizations “Thanks.” It’s something they rarely hear.
The line crews were out in force. The massive size of this storm overwhelmed them. In the past we’ve become accustomed to our power going out, calling the utility company and in the matter of a couple of hours the lights come back on. This time it wasn’t just our power that was off, it was the power of over 750,000 other homes in Kentucky as well.
Every incident such as this can be a learning experience for all. We made every effort to keep you informed with the information we had, which in most cases was very little. I appeared on WHAS TV twice, Channel 32 once and was on various Elizabethtown radio stations numerous times. Generally the information we would receive from the power companies (we did not get a daily report) was along the line of “we’re working as hard and as fast as we can.”
We never received specific information such as “tomorrow we will be on ‘x’ road and will have power restored on it tomorrow afternoon.” For those of you that called and wanted me to tell you when your power would be back, I’m sorry I couldn’t give you a day or time. County and city governments do not set poles, repair lines, replace transformers or designate when or where the utilities are to do their work.
I agree that should an event like this ever occur again, better communication is a must. Our utilities need more access to phone lines and perhaps they could have a real time Web site showing power outage areas, where crews are working and an estimate of the number of homes still without power. Perhaps we need to have a call-in number that has a recording, updated several times a day that has information in regards to shelter availability, availability of necessities such as kerosene and fuel and other pertinent information. Past experience teaches us lessons we can utilize in the future.
The greatest tribute goes to our citizens. You cared for your neighbors and helped them in a time of need.