PIKEVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Snow blanketed parts of eastern Kentucky
on Sunday from a storm that knocked out power to more than 75,000
About three dozen people spent the night in a Red Cross shelter
at Pike Central High School in Pikeville, near the Kentucky-West
Virginia border, an area with more than 24,000 homes reported
"We're together, so that's what I'm thankful for. Everybody is
warm and safe," said Marlena Varnes, who spent the night at the
shelter with her husband, Daniel, and their eight children. "It's
better than being cold."
The storm dropped record amounts of snow along the East Coast,
including 2 feet in Medford, N.J., a suburb of Philadelphia.
In Kentucky, heavy snow fell on trees, knocking them on to power
lines, which caused some areas, including parts of the
Appalachians, to go dark.
Kentucky National Guard Brigadier Gen. John Heltzel said about
87,000 homes were without power as of noon Sunday. The Kentucky
Public Service Commission listed power outages in 26 counties,
primarily in eastern Kentucky. The central and western parts of the
state were spared the worst of the snowstorm.
Heltzel the main power lines were up, but wires feeding power
into residential areas were collapsed. Heltzel expects about power
to be restored to half the impacted area by Wednesday, with the
rest done by Sunday.
"We hope to make everybody happy and beat that," Heltzel said.
Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, who toured parts of eastern
Kentucky, said state officials are pushing to have power restored
by Christmas so residents can go home for the holiday.
"We've got to get this power back up as quickly as possible,"
Beshear said at a stop in Neon.
Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo also surveyed storm damage, saying it
could take up to four days for power to be restored in some parts
of the state.
"We just want to make sure people have the essentials, clean
drinking water and a warm place to stay until we can get power
restored," Mongiardo told The Associated Press.
State Rep. Keith Hall, D-Phelps, described eastern Kentucky
looking like "a war zone" - jumble of downed trees and power
lines coated in snow. People are buying out kerosene and batteries
from every store that has or regains electricty, Hall said.
"We're hunkered down," Hall said.
Totie Criglor went to the Pikeville shelter with her husband,
Tim, and their eight-day old daughter, Tessa, after losing power
Friday night. Criglor said the move marked the first time they had
to go to a shelter.
"We came for the baby's sake, to keep her warm," she said.
The breadth of the storm is what made it particularly hard on
eastern Kentucky, where residents generally have family nearby to
stay with during a power outage or an emergency, said Mary Alice
Oldfield, a Red Cross volunteer at the Pikeville shelter, where
hard chairs and cots were spread around.
"The outage is so widespread, it's going to be hard to find a
family member with electricity," Oldfield said.
Here are the latest power outage numbers from AEP as of Sunday afternoon... a total of 64,189 Kentucky Power customers remain without power.
Ashland area-5,848 customers affected
Hazard area-16,789 customers affected
Paintsville area-1,887 customers affected
Pikeville area-24,5553 customers affected
South Williamson-8,392 customers affected
Whitesburg area-6,720 customers affected
Customers can track information about this storm and efforts to restore power by going to www.kentuckypower.com and clicking on the December 18 Snow Storm-Kentucky Power Box.
Gov. Steve Beshear, Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo, Adjutant General Edward Tonini and Brigadier General John Heltzel, director of the division of emergency management, today visited areas of eastern Kentucky hard hit by a major winter storm that blanketed parts of central and eastern Kentucky with more than one foot of snow.
Gov. Beshear, Lt. Gov. Mongiardo, Gen. Tonini and Gen. Heltzel today made stops in Pike County, Perry County and Neon in Letcher County as they surveyed the extent of storm damage and witnessed recovery efforts.
They visited a number of shelters in Pike and Letcher counties and saw the devastation of the storm first hand. Gov. Beshear and team met with local officials about the conditions and evaluated relief efforts. The Governor also personally delivered water and food to individuals affected by the storms and greeted individuals purchasing kerosene in Pike County.
“I never cease to be amazed by the resiliency of eastern Kentuckians in a crisis,” said Gov. Beshear. “We will continue to work with local officials to ensure that we are doing all we can to get people back in shape after this storm.”
Dangerous conditions in the wake of the major winter storms led Gov. Beshear to declare a state of emergency on Saturday, enabling the mobilization of state resources to assist impacted communities. Strong winter storms with heavy snow hit parts of central and eastern Kentucky Friday night, resulting in broken trees, road closures, stranded motorists, flooding, public and private property damage and power outages.
At the height of the storm, 106,190 customers in eastern and southeastern Kentucky were reported without power. As utility and emergency crews continue to work around the clock that number has decreased to an estimated 87,000 as of mid-afternoon Sunday, and continued improvement is expected. However, it may take as long as a week for 100 percent restoration to individual residences.
“Touring through Perry and Harlan counties I've seen a lot of devastation, but I've also seen people helping people,” said Lt. Gov. Mongiardo. “Thanks to the governor's quick action, emergency crews were able to move quickly, and we're seeing the positive outcome from those actions. There's still a lot to do when it comes to restoring power and water, but with everyone working together, it may not take as long as originally expected to get those utilities back in full operation.”
Gov. Beshear’s declaration triggers necessary state resources and allows out-of-state utility crews to move into the state to restore power. Kentucky Division of Emergency Management and the Commonwealth Emergency Operations Center remain activated and coordinating the Commonwealth’s response.
Two hundred Kentucky National Guard soldiers have been deployed to assist in roadway tree removal and other missions. Nine counties have produced written declarations for states of emergency; three counties have declared verbally. The city of Salyersville has also declared an emergency.
Secondary effects of the power outage include the loss of water services. Currently the Division of Water is reporting an estimated 15,700 connections without water, including residences and businesses. An update to this number is expected before 9:00 PM EST.
The following shelters are in operation in 10 counties: Bell County, Pineville High School; Breathitt County, Jackson Fire Department/EOC; Harlan County, Harlan County High School; Johnson County, Christian Appalachian Project located in Hagerhill, Ky., has opened as a shelter for the residents of Floyd County; Knott County, Knott County Human Service Center; Lawrence County, Lawrence County High School; Leslie County, Leslie County EOC, Hyden Fire Department and Wooten Volunteer Fire Department; Letcher County, Blackey Senior Citizen Home, Boone Fort Senior Citizen Center, Colson Fire Department and Ermine Senior Citizen Center; Perry County, First Presbyterian Church; Pike County, Belfry High School, Phelps Senior Citizen Home, Pike Central High School, Pike County EXPO Center and Shelby Valley High School.
Charlie O'Neal, KYEM Assistant Director of Operations, said “Once again our local officials have demonstrated their unique ability to excel in adversity and continue to serve the citizens of their communities well.”
Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) crews spot-treated roadways in the Department of Highways’ two easternmost districts – Manchester and Pikeville – where snow caused the most problems, but their work increasingly turned to cleaning up storm damage.
Among the last to recover were Harlan and Bell counties.
KY 160, which runs atop Black Mountain in Harlan County, remained closed because of fallen trees. National Guard troops assisted transportation crews in a massive timber clearing effort on that route.
In Bell County, local crews were supplemented with inmate labor and with highway crews from Laurel, Clay and Jackson counties to clear timber. But all roads in Bell County had been made passable.
The storm saw many KYTC construction engineers joining their maintenance counterparts in the timber cleanup effort.
“By itself, the heavy snow would have presented a challenge,” said Acting Transportation Secretary Mike Hancock. “The widespread destruction of trees and power lines compounded that challenge because numerous roadways were temporarily impassable. But, just as they did in the disastrous ice storm of last winter, our crews have risen to those challenges and will not stop until the job is done.”
All primary routes in Highway District 12 have been plowed and are clear.
Traffic signals are out at US 460 and KY 195 (Marrowbone) and KY 80 and KY 197 (Elkhorn City), both in Pike County. Stop signs have been installed as a temporary measure.
A number of roads remain impassable or are reduced to one-lane traffic. As of 4 p.m. EST on Sunday, the following roads were affected:
Floyd County: All routes passable using caution; a few trees remain on some routes, which means traffic is one-lane. Drivers should be extremely careful and considerate of other drivers.
Letcher County: Crews still working to clear secondary roads of trees; all primary roads clear.
Johnson County: The following routes are doown to one lane: 1750, 850, 469, 993. These are passable using caution. Power lines down on KY 1409 near end of state maintenance. All roads treated and all primary routes clear.
Lawrence County: Passable using caution: KY 1690, KY 3 South, KY 1760. All other roads are treated and should be clear.
Pike County: KY 3419 and KY 1056 closed to traffic. Primary routes are clear with wet pavement. Secondary routes all treated; some passable using caution (down to one lane).
Knott County: On KY 7, 1098, 1410 and 3391 crews are cutting trees and moving them off the roadways. Snow plows are coming in right behind them to plow these routes. All other roads have been treated.
Martin County: Primary routes clear; medians being cleared at this time. Still cutting trees on some secondary routes (“B” and “C”). All should be passable using caution.
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press and WYMT. All Rights Reserved.)