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Truck takes out phone service

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Tractor-trailer pulls down lines, snapping pole

By Linda Ireland

A section of East Main Street looked like a war zone last Wednesday. Downed electric and telephone lines stretched across sidewalks. A utility pole snapped. A chimney was toppled and shingles ripped from roofs. Cars were backed up as police and firefighters blocked the roadway.

The damage occurred when a tractor-trailer hooked a telephone line – and kept going.

According to Hodgenville Police Chief John Cottrill, the Freight Exchange tractor-trailer, driven by Joseph Durant, 32, of Horizon City, Texas, pulled off the side of the road in front of Plug N Play about noon. Durant, who was headed south, was checking a map to catch KY 84 and Interstate 65. When he pulled back into the street, a low-hanging wire snagged the back of the trailer.

“He felt something slow the truck down,” said Cottrill.

The wires snowballed, breaking a telephone pole on East Water Street and tearing phone wires from poles on Smith Street. The wad of wires and pole brushed the LaRue County Health Department, then became entangled under the rig. More wires scraped the roofs of houses, ripping through shingles.

Residents said they heard “a terrible racket” and one thought an earthquake had occurred.

Mary Aubrey’s home at 216 East Main was severely damaged. Electric and telephone wires were pulled from the house. The chimney and vent tumbled from the roof after being yanked by a large wire.

Aubrey said she was watching television in her living room when she “heard a boom.”

“I looked out and saw the truck coming with wires wrapped all around it,” she said. “It knocked everything down. It done a number on my house. I’ve got no lights, no telephone.”

Aubrey was worried that she would lose the food in her freezer, however the power was restored quickly.

“It didn’t pull the box loose from the house,” she said. “They said I was luckier than some of the neighbors.”

She, along with about 300 other Windstream customers were without telephone service for about 10 hours, according to Erin Ascione, marketing communications manager for Windstream.

“Everybody tried to call me – my brothers and sisters live in Louisville – and were worried when they couldn’t get me,” said Aubrey.

Phone service was completely restored by 11:30 p.m. Wednesday, Ascione said.

Only three residents lost electrical power, according to Kentucky Utilities service supervisor Cliff Feltham. One required the services of an electrician as the damage was on the customer’s side of the electric meter.

Feltham said it took workers about 45 minutes to restore power and replace the broken pole.

“It was relatively routine for us,” he said.

Aubrey contacted her insurance company who sent workers to secure her roof with a tarpaulin so it wouldn’t leak during last week’s rainstorms.

Plug N Play owner Randy Schmittou, whose home was also damaged, said telephone lines on the street are too low – and it’s not uncommon for a large vehicle to snare them. Within the past two years, a grain auger and truck carrying a shed struck the line in front of his house.

Ascione said the clearance of the cable is 18-plus feet.  “We are not sure of its height (Wednesday) and can only speculate that it may have been lower at the time of (the) incident due to the ice storm,” she said.

Kentucky Utilities and Windstream workers were at the scene to restore service within an hour.

Cottrill said no charges were filed against the driver.