More than 20,000 Kentucky Utilities customers — homes and businesses — remained without power in Fayette County on Saturday evening following several rounds of violent storms that swept through the area in the previous 24 hours, the utility reported on its website.
As of 9:30 p.m., Fayette County had 22,763 customers without power. In neighboring Woodford County, the number was 9,696 customers.
“We are unable to accurately gauge an estimated restoration time. We are working to get everyone back on as quickly and safely as we can,” KU wrote on social media Saturday.
“We understand restoration is taking longer than usual,” KU added. “This was one of the worst storms we have seen in recent history and damage was widespread. We are pulling in all available personnel and putting them on rotation along with additional mutual assistance.”
Crews from Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin and Tennessee will be arriving Sunday to help restore power, said KU spokesman Daniel Lowry.
“It will not be as bad as it was the last time we had a storm of this magnitude,” which was during the ice storm of 2003, he said.
During that storm, 115,000 Central Kentucky customers lost power, as opposed to about 80,000 this weekend.
Mass outages were reported around Central Kentucky Friday as a result of strong winds, downed trees and lightning strikes brought on by the strong storms.
Blue Grass Energy in Nicholasville reported that it had 1,126 members without power as of 9:30 p.m. Saturday, down from 4,643 members Saturday morning. The utility said crews would work throughout the night, and power is expected to be restored to all Blue Grass Energy customers on Sunday.
Many neighborhoods woke Saturday, if they had gotten much sleep at all, to cleanup work, facing tree limbs and other debris in their yards and driveways.
In a tweet, Lexington Mayor Jim Gray said, “Police officers continue to direct traffic at 21 intersections where lights are out or downed trees or electric wires still pose dangers. Street crews are clearing the roads as soon as electric wires are cleared.”
The Idle Hour Shopping Center on Richmond Road was shuttered and dark, its stores and restaurants closed since the lights went out around 4 p.m. Friday. Inside Durango’s Mexican Restaurant, manager Felisa Lucero said the lack of electricity meant all of the cold food spoiled and had to be thrown out. Without customers to serve, Lucero’s 15 employees were at home, not getting their wages or tips.
“I’m very upset,” Lucero said.
Toward the other end of the shopping center, a roaring generator on a patio outside O’Neill’s created enough electricity inside the eatery to preserve food inside a deep freezer. But O’Neill’s is still unable to open its doors until power is restored, and that might not happen until Monday, said owner Matthew Mason. O’Neill’s has 26 employees, Mason said.
“We’re losing a lot of money,” Mason said. “We stand to lose over $30,000 if we lose the whole weekend.”
Southland Christian Church said it would cancel services at its Richmond Road campus if power was not restored by 6 a.m. Sunday morning, and Vineyard Community Church, which was without power on Dennis Drive, said it would consolidate its Lexington services at its Eastland Parkway campus .
Just off Yellowstone Parkway, Iola Blandon rocked on her front porch with her daughter-in-law, Connie Mitchell on Saturday afternoon. Both women had been without power since Friday afternoon, but they were grateful that Saturday’s temperatures were mild, in the upper 70s, so air conditioning wasn’t essential.
“You can’t watch television. You lose food in the freezer. And you can’t make coffee, so you know that kills me,” Blandon said, laughing. “But I just did my shopping, so that really is something. That food has to last me a month, too!”
In Versailles, toppled trees crushed the fences around a half-dozen yards at the nonprofit Woodford Humane Society, where the 30 to 40 dogs are exercised and allowed to relieve themselves. The estimated cost of replacing them is $8,000 to $10,000, which the humane society does not have, said spokeswoman Beth Oleson.
“It’s a big hit for us,” said Oleson at the darkened animal shelter, where power still had not been restored Saturday morning. “We do have our normal fundraising goals and budget, but that doesn’t include these big unexpected expenses. We’ve already had to field a few major expenses this year like the air conditioning system and absorbing the animals from a few hoarding situations.”
Herald-Leader staff writer Karla Ward contributed to this report.