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One week after walloping storm, Woodford County is in recovery mode

Storm cleanup continues in Woodford County

Parts of Woodford County continue to clean up after last Friday's storm which downed trees and left thousands without power.
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Parts of Woodford County continue to clean up after last Friday's storm which downed trees and left thousands without power.

Residents here are still picking up the pieces after a July 20 storm roared through town.

“It’s a mess, it really is,” said Ellie Castle. She and other relatives picked up debris Saturday from the 3-acre Versailles property of her father, retired Kentucky Court of Appeals Judge Anthony Wilhoit. “The devastation of the old trees is kind of sad.”

Retired banker Dalton Evans, 75, watched Saturday as 17-year-old Nick Kinney removed limbs from a rental property that Evans has on McDonald Avenue.

At another property Evans owns in Colony subdivision south of downtown, a 50-foot pin oak tree split in two and fell across a driveway.

“The city’s really got their hands full because the entire town was hit,” Evans said.

Kinney said he’s cleaned up about a dozen yards and couldn’t estimate how many times he’s filled up a tandem trailer to take debris to a recycling center.

More than 12,000 Kentucky Utilities customers in Woodford County lost power immediately after the storm. Anne-Claire Gibson, nanny to the Driskell quintuplets born last year, recalled how she, the five toddlers and two dogs hunkered down in a bathroom as the storm swept into town.

“Keeping the five 14-month-olds in a bathtub for two hours while we waited out the storm was terrifying,” Gibson said. “I can’t tell you how many songs I sang to them. The only thing that calmed them down was like two or three nursery rhymes, so I repeated for hours the same couple of nursery rhymes.”

Electricity has been restored — “It has been amazing to have air-conditioning and lights again,” Gibson said — but many people are still removing limbs.

Anne-Claire Gibson, of Versailles, cleared a dead tree from her backyard on Duell Drive a week after damaging storms that downed trees and left thousands without power Friday in Versailles. Alex Slitz

“Now we’re in the recovery mode,” said Woodford emergency management director Drew Chandler. “We’re cleaning up. We’re documenting losses. And we’re getting the community back to some version of normal. That could take weeks and months.”

Between July 20 and the close of business Wednesday, the recycling center on Beasley Drive in Versailles took in 1.2 million pounds of brush, Chandler said. That amount is determined by having vehicles weighed on scales coming in to the center and weighed again upon departure.

The storm’s cost to local governments and other public entities like the health department and school district “could easily be in the $1 million to $2 million range before it’s all said and done,” Chandler said. (The health department lost $10,000 in vaccines that needed to be refrigerated, he said.)

But people have pulled together. In Midway, about 30 volunteers cleaned up debris from a cemetery on Wednesday, said Mayor Grayson Vandegrift.

Woodford Fiscal Court and Versailles City Council are in the process of soliciting bids for private contractors to help with curbside collection of debris. Both governments might select vendors as early as this week.

“Some trees have been blown over that are 200 or 250 years old and you couldn’t put both arms around them,” said Woodford County Judge-Executive John Coyle.

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