It was a storm that caused more power outages than Kentucky has ever seen, and nearly 700,000 homes were without electricity as a result of last Tuesday’s ice and snow storm that slammed the commonwealth.
Locally, about 70 percent of the homes in Washington County were without power for at least a short time according to Washington County Judge-Executive John Settles, who said he is also without power at his home.
“I think conservatively we can say that at least 70 percent of the county was without power at some point,” Settles said Monday. “Some people were back on more quickly, but today, we’re still thinking that about 30 percent of the county is still without power.”
Settles added that he has been told it could be 10 to 14 days before power is restored in some places.
The outages began to occur on Tuesday as freezing rain and sleet fell across the county, and ice formed on power lines as well as highways. Settles said crews from the county and state went into action immediately to start working on the local roads as the storm made its way into the county.
“The crews worked through Saturday and Sunday, and they are still at work today,” he said Monday morning. “The report now is that all roads are passable, but all roads are not yet clear.”
As the crews worked on the roads, others moved to form a shelter for those losing power. Springfield’s Opera House was the site of the shelter when it began on Tuesday evening, but that was relocated on Friday to provide additional services not available at the Opera House, including showers and on-site feeding for those seeking shelter.
Settles said progress was made possible by the hard work of numerous workers, as well as volunteers.
“This community is so great because of the individuals who have put in their time at the shelter, but also those we will never know about who took a hot meal to a neighbor or went out and cut trees out of the roads so people could get out,” he said.
National Guard troops were also mobilized in the county on Sunday, and they immediately began door-to-door checks of citizens to make sure those who were staying at home without heat were OK. Soldiers delivered water to those in need and distributed updated news releases with information about the latest status on power and other essentials as provided by local government officials.
“The Guard went out to make sure everybody had a warm meal and a warm place to stay. That continues today, and we’ve got more troops on the ground and hope to get everyone in the county contacted,” Settles said.
The cleanup effort will be a long process according to Settles and Glenn Mattingly, public works director for the city of Springfield. The city has rented a wood chipper for one month, and will be taking it through city streets to pick up fallen limbs and other wood pulled to the curb by residents. Mattingly said wood should be limited to four inches in diameter and no more than four to six feet in length. Any wood that doesn’t meet those size restrictions should be taken to the county’s transfer station on St. Rose-Lebanon Road, which Settles said is accepting fallen limbs and branches free of charge from all Washington County residents until further notice. Settles said county crews are working to clear roads at this time and he had no estimate when or if the county will be able to perform cleanup similar to that of the city’s door-to-door efforts.
“It’s going to be a slow process, but I think we’ll do fine,” Mattingly said of the city cleanup. “It will take us the bigger part of a month to get it done. So many people haven’t begun the process of cleaning up their yards yet. We just ask that everybody be patient. We will be making several trips through the city streets with the wood chipper.”
Mattingly said anyone who is in a hurry to have debris picked up might want to consider taking it to the transfer station because the process will be a slow one for city crews. Settles said the station will be open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday.