Thousands lose power after snow

Some roads closed while crews work to clear snow

shopkins@herald-leader.comDecember 20, 2009 

As much as 16 inches of snow fell in some places in Eastern Kentucky this weekend, leaving 107,000 homes without power and prompting Gov. Steve Beshear to declare a state of emergency.

The heavy, wet snow toppled trees and downed power lines, said John Jacobson, a senior meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Jackson. He said he started getting calls Friday night from residents who watched as snowflakes the size of their palms and silver dollars fell.

Snow was expected to continue overnight Saturday in Eastern Kentucky with up to another inch of accumulation in lower elevations and up to two inches in higher elevations.

While the Lexington area received less than an inch by Saturday night, the storm hit areas east of Interstate 75 much harder.

Crews in Pike County, where some places received a foot of snow, worked furiously Saturday to restore power to 35,000 residents. Brandon Roberts, spokesman for Judge-Executive Wayne T. Rutherford, said the number of people without power was down to about 29,000 by Saturday evening. Power was expected to be restored to everyone by Monday, he said.

Water is being distributed to roughly 10,000 people without running water, he said. The number is expected to increase.

Shelters also have been established. Red Cross volunteer Amanda Presley said about 53 people had signed in at a shelter at Belfry High School. "We have plenty of room left," Presley said.

Jody Oldham operated a Red Cross shelter at Pike Central High School, where about 40 people planned to spend Saturday night.

He said a family with a 4-month-old child got stuck on a hill while trying to get to the shelter and the fire department had to bring them the rest of the way. Oldham said the family had been without power since Friday afternoon. He said the fire department was attempting to bring people trapped in their homes to the shelters.

The state's Operations Center has been activated to coordinate the response to the storm, including opening shelters, rescuing stranded motorists and clearing roads. Beshear's declaration Saturday frees up money to pay for out-of-state utility crews to help restore power.

Buddy Rogers, spokesman for the Kentucky Division of Emergency Management, said the priority is to help those without essentials such as running water. "That's what we're trying to concentrate on first ... like we did in the ice storm," he said, referring to a storm last winter that left thousands in the state without power.

Several secondary roads in Eastern Kentucky counties remained impassable because of the snow. "Right now there are some spots where the roads are still in pretty rough shape," said Mark Brown, a spokesman with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet.

Chuck Wolfe, another cabinet spokesman, said downed trees and power lines prevented plows from clearing several roads. The National Guard helped clear trees in Pike County and may help in other areas Sunday. For information about road conditions, go to the transportation department's Web site at www.511.ky.gov or call 511 in Kentucky or 1-866-737-3767.

Beshear plans to visit Eastern Kentucky on Sunday.

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