Counties begin cleanup; thousands remain without power

Like many Central Kentuckians, JoAnn and Conley Wilkerson have hunkered down and made the best of the situation.

The situation being: They have no electricity.

“This is the only heat we have,” said Conley Wilkerson, pointing to the fireplace in the den of their house 3 miles south of Perryville.

It's been that way since 6 a.m. Tuesday for the Wilkersons. The couple — he's 83, she's 79 — spend their days by the fire, bundled up in coats and knit caps.

“I look like the Michelin Man,” JoAnn Wilkerson said.

They're not the only ones still coping with the after-effects of this week's snow and ice storm. Throughout Central Kentucky, thousands remained without power Thursday.

In Fayette County, according to numbers from the state Public Service Commission, 36,600 Kentucky Utilities customers were without power. Blue Grass Energy reported that about 3,400 of its Fayette customers remained powerless.

More than 9,200 customers had no electricity in Boyle County. In Madison County, more than 21,000 customers had no power. And a combined 20,000 outages remained in Scott, Woodford, Jessamine and Clark counties, according to the PSC.

But Thursday was also a day of gradual restoration.

Fayette County

In Lexington, city officials got some help as they continued to clean up.

Twelve Kentucky National Guard members from the 138th Fires Brigade headed to the Andover subdivision and other Lexington neighborhoods battered by falling limbs and trees.

The six two-person crews helped break down limbs with chain saws. Division of Solid Waste came through behind them to clear the debris from the streets, city officials said.

By 4 p.m. Thursday, at least 21 signalized intersections were still without power in Lexington, according to the mayor's office. The exact number of intersections with electricity fluctuates as power is restored or lost in different parts of town.

City traffic engineers worked with police to set up generators at four intersections to provide power until electricity can be restored.

“We're making pretty good progress,” Mayor Jim Newberry said. “We still have a lot of work to do, especially on the streets and roads front.”

About 100 people had taken refuge in a shelter at Dunbar High School.

Garrard County

In Garrard County, most customers had power Thursday morning, said Lancaster Mayor Don Rinthen.

And water treatment had begun again in Lancaster and in neighboring Danville, although both were under boil-water advisories.

Danville was one of the hardest-hit areas, with power and water knocked out virtually citywide. More than 200 people crowded into shelters.

Madison County

Conditions were calmer in Berea, too, where Mayor Steve Connelly said the city of about 10,000 should have power back on by Friday.

Crews gradually restored power to the city Wednesday and Thursday, Connelly said. The water treatment plant also has power.

Brandy Beardsley, a third-grade teacher at Berea's Shannon Johnson Elementary School, came to a shelter there Thursday morning to see whether she could help and to get some respite from her powerless home.

After spending Wednesday night without power, “you definitely realize you depend way too much on electricity,” Beardsley said.

Scott County

In Georgetown, Fava's owner Jeni Gruchow reopened the downtown restaurant Thursday morning. She expected traffic to be slow but steady, because so many folks were without power.

“I came in yesterday at 5 a.m. and everything was dark,” she said. “It was an eerie feeling.”

The Toyota plant in Georgetown, which had stopped producing vehicles during second shift Tuesday and all day Wednesday, returned to regular production on Thursday, spokesman Rick Hesterberg said.

Also in Scott County, Kentucky State Police planned to close part of Interstate 75 Friday morning to remove a tractor-trailer that jackknifed, hitting another vehicle, on Wednesday.

State police plan to close I-75 at the 136 mile marker from 9 to 11 a.m. Friday. Drivers will be directed to take a detour off Exit 128 and return to the interstate at the 144 mile marker.

Powell and Estill counties

Some streets and roads were closed Thursday in Powell and Estill counties because of flooding.

In Clay City, Samantha Holmes wasn't surprised that water had crept across streets after freezing rain early in the week.

Flooding is a frequent occurrence in the Powell County community. Holmes, who works at the BP gas station on Main Street, said the portion of the street in front of the gas station had to be redone some years ago because of the high water.

Boyle County

While some saw a semblance of normalcy return, others, like the Conleys in rural Boyle County, are still waiting.

They heat coffee and cook meals over the fire in the den. Wednesday morning for breakfast they had scrambled eggs, Spam and toast. “Not too shabby,” Conley Wilkerson said.

But they dread nightfall because they have no lights and no television. The fire doesn't provide enough light for reading.

“I thought about Abraham Lincoln reading by the fire,” Conley said. “He must have had awful good eyes to be able to do that.”

They found other ways to entertain themselves. Said JoAnn: “Conley would tell me something and I would come up with either a line of poetry or the beginning of a song.”

They had an opportunity to take temporary shelter at McDowell Place of Danville, an assisted living center, but Conley preferred to stay home. He told JoAnn that she should go, but she wouldn't hear of it.

And then Thursday afternoon they had an opportunity to go to a Danville motel. Again, Conley told his wife to go, but JoAnn said she wouldn't leave him alone.

Said JoAnn to Conley: “If I have put up with your orneriness for 58 years, I'm not leaving now.”