Misery lingers across Kentucky

The number of Kentuckians without electricity continued to flicker during the fourth day of ice storm cleanup as the first signs of thawing brought with it some new outages and high waters on some roads.

And in many of the areas left in the cold and dark after Tuesday and Wednesday's storm, water and fuel remained scarce and food stocks were dwindling, prompting the governor to call for a donation drive this weekend.

Meanwhile, at least two deaths can be blamed on the storm. Seven other deaths, including three of carbon monoxide poisoning in Louisville on Friday, also were thought to be related to the winter weather.

Utility crews with help from out-of-state reinforcements had restored power to more than 100,000 customers by late Friday, less than a day after a state record of more than 700,000 were powerless, according to the governor's office. But even as more power lines were revived across the state, others were taken down by thawing tree branches that fell on wires or by circuit overloads.

At one point Friday, utility crews had the state total down to the 530,000 range, said Andrew Melnykovych, spokesman for the Kentucky Public Service Commission.

"We're moving steadily downward, but the numbers are jumping around," he said. "Stuff still keeps breaking. And we've had a little bit of wind, which hasn't helped."

State officials also were beginning to get nervous about another possible wallop of snow that could hit Kentucky on Monday. Officials already have alerted the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which is helping now by providing generators, food and 12 truckloads of water.

Because the power has been out to 58 water districts, mostly in Western Kentucky and rural Central Kentucky, 200,000 water customers are under boil orders or remain without running water.

A total of 172 shelters have opened across the state to serve more than 6,400 Kentuckians, Gov. Steve Beshear said at a news conference.

Beshear also announced a food donation drive, in conjunction with state universities that are hosting college basketball games Saturday. Volunteers will be collecting donations of food and money for area food banks and shelters before games at the arenas of the University of Kentucky, University of Louisville, Western Kentucky University and Eastern Kentucky University.

All this comes after a two-day storm that pummelled most of the state with a mix of snow and ice earlier this week caused power and phone outages and blocked roads from far Western Kentucky to the West Virginia line.

At least 86 of Kentucky's 120 counties have declared emergencies.

The more than 700,000 customers who lost power include 607,000 customers of utilities regulated by the state, as well as Kentuckians who get electricity from the Tennessee Valley Authority and small private municipal companies. The major utilities still had more than 534,000 homes and businesses without power Friday night, according to the Public Service Commission.

The state has marshalled 1,600 National Guard troops mostly to help clear debris from secondary roads, particularly in Western Kentucky, where just about everything has come to a standstill.

"National Guard are also starting to go door to door," Beshear said, noting that people without power would not be able to call for help.

The western counties were particularly crippled because the ice toppled many major high-voltage lines.

Big Rivers Electric Corp., for instance, lost a tower along the line coming off its generation plant on Lake Bark ley, Melnykovych said.

And Big Rivers hadn't been able to get assessment teams airborne to gauge the damage to its major lines until Friday. The National Guard lent a helicopter for them to fly over those lines, said Maj. Gen. Edward W. Tonini.

Kentucky Utilities also sustained serious transmission line damage in the west.

"KU found one stretch ... in one of their lines where they had 30 poles down — a whole string of poles that was just busted," Melnykovych said. One of its power plants, the Green River Generating Station, essentially shut down because it had nowhere to send its electricity, he said.

That part of the state also had widespread cell phone service interruption, but AT&T, the state's major carrier, was reporting 80 percent of its network was back online Friday, Beshear said.

East Kentucky Power, the umbrella organization for 16 electric cooperatives across Central and Eastern Kentucky, said 109,000 of its 511,000 customers were out of power Friday night. That's down from a peak of 190,000.

"In general, I'm very pleased with the effort because I don't think we can do anything more than what we're doing," Beshear said. "But you're never satisfied until that last family has heat."

Power outages: Kentucky Utilities, 1-800-981-0600 Blue Grass Energy Cooperative, 1-888-655-4243. Map of KU and LG&E customers without power,

Damaged electric service: Notify the utility company if the electric service connection or meter is damaged. Contact an electrician to repair the meter base or service connection. Repairs must be inspected by a state-certified inspector. Notify utility when the repairs are complete.

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