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Beshear is asking for federal disaster relief

LOUISVILLE — As power outages from winds nearly a week ago dragged on, some storm-weary residents chose a Red Cross shelter over their homes.

"It's been kind of torturous," said Lee Hayes, whose family took refuge at an American Red Cross shelter in downtown Louisville after roughing it at home for several nights.

More than 120,000 people remained without electricity as crews kept working around the clock to restore power knocked out Sunday.

Hayes' family coped most of the week by driving to Fort Knox to eat with friends, then returning home for the night, where they relied on flashlights.

They spent Thursday night in the shelter after Hayes and his wife, Maria, spent four fitful nights at home without power for the machines that treat their sleep apnea.

"I just couldn't take it anymore," Maria Hayes said.

Derrick Jordan had spent the last two nights at the shelter but said his 70-year-old father refused to budge from their Louisville home.

"He's afraid someone will come in and steal what little we have," Jordan said.

Gov. Steve Beshear said Friday that he was asking for federal disaster relief to help cover a growing tab to clean up from the remnants of Hurricane Ike.

Beshear said he was confident Kentucky would qualify for federal assistance to recover from what he called "the worst storm of its kind on record in Kentucky."

"I'm hopeful that we are beginning to see some light at the end of this long, dark tunnel," Beshear told reporters in Louisville, which was hardest hit by the power outages in Kentucky.

Beshear's office said damage estimates statewide exceed $10 million, an amount expected to grow.

Wind gusts peaked at 75 mph at Louisville's main airport and in Western Kentucky.

The state reported that 126,107 homes and businesses still lacked power Friday morning, down from more than a half-million customers at the peak of outages.

Hardest hit was Louisville Gas & Electric, which had 105,000 customers without power in its service area, which includes Louisville and surrounding counties, Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson said.

In one sign that life was returning to normal, local public school officials announced that classes would resume Monday in Louisville after a weeklong disruption. Meanwhile, there were no ill effects at Valhalla Golf Club near Louisville, where play opened Friday in the Ryder Cup.

By gaining a presidential disaster declaration, state and local governments could seek reimbursement for up to 75 percent of costs to remove debris, repair public infrastructure and provide emergency protection, Beshear said. State and local governments each would shoulder 12.5 percent of those costs.

The federal government requires a $5 million threshold in public damage to qualify, officials said.

"We have reached and exceeded that threshold," Beshear said.

Meanwhile, Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Ky., said he was pushing congressional leaders to include Louisville in a separate disaster-relief package being considered by Congress.