UPDATED | Many in Eastern Kentucky still without power

gkocher1@herald-leader.comFebruary 20, 2012 

Eastern Kentucky counties continued to dig out Tuesday from a weekend snow that left more than 34,000 customers without power at one point.

Hardest hit were Perry, Knott, Leslie and Letcher counties, where 6 to 8 inches of snow brought down tree limbs and utility lines. Breathitt, Pike and Floyd counties also had significant outages.

Kentucky Power Company said it had more than 340 additional lineman and assessors to aid in restoration efforts. Many were brought in before the storm, the company said on its Web site.

As of 9 a.m. Tuesday, the number of people without power dropped to 17,673, down from 23,500 Monday evening, according to the power company's Web site. The Paintsville Service Area was no longer listed, which should mean power was back on there as of midnight, according to previous estimates on the site.

As of Monday, more than 53 percent of the company's customers in Leslie County were without power. And more than 57 percent of the company's customers in Knott County had no electricity.

Although the outages peaked at about 34,000 Monday afternoon, the number of customers without power had decreased to about 23,500 by about 7 p.m. Monday, said Ronn Robinson, a spokesman for Kentucky Power.

Wanda and Leonard Combs of Pine Top in Knott County were heating their home with kerosene.

"We have no way of cooking, so we're eating sandwiches," Wanda Combs said Monday afternoon. The couple moved to Knott County last year from Rome City, Ind. "No coffee, no nothing. We're not used to this."

In Perry County, an estimated 36 percent of Kentucky Power customers had no electricity, down from the 43 percent reported earlier Monday, the company said on its Web site.

Even Judge-Executive Denny Ray Noble was in a plow truck as crews scraped snow off roads Monday, said John Epperson, the county's emergency management director.

If requested, county road crews assisted the power company in the removal of tree limbs, Epperson said.

Gospel Light Baptist Church in Hazard opened its doors to the community on Monday, offering hot meals and a warm place to stay, said pastor Chris Fugate.

He said about 20 people had been at the church throughout the day on Monday, and a family of about 9 more had just dropped in to get a warm supper.

Fugate expected some families to begin going home Monday night as power was restored, but he said the newly-formed church planned to remain open to residents as long as needed.

No shelters had opened in Letcher County, but that might change by Monday evening, said Paul Miles, emergency management director.

"Last count we had, we had about 5,000 or 5,500 people" without power, Miles said Monday afternoon. "We've got trees down, roads blocked. We've got the county road department along with Pine Mountain Search & Rescue trying to open up roadways that are impassable at this point. ... It's just a hardship and an inconvenience on everyone."

Kentucky Power estimates that 90 percent of its customers will have power before these times as of 9 p.m. Monday:

■ Hazard Service Area: 6 p.m. Friday, Feb. 24

■ Pikeville Service Area: Midnight, Wednesday, Feb 22

■ South Williamson Service Area: midnight, Tuesday, Feb. 21

■ Whitesburg Service Area: midnight, Thursday, Feb. 23

Herald-Leader staff writer Karla Ward contributed to this report. Greg Kocher: (859) 231-3305. Twitter: @HLpublicsafety

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