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Let there be lights!Power restored to most of county

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Crews from Mississippi, Florida, other states help restore power

By Geoff Hamill

The ice has melted, the snow is gone, and things are starting to get back to normal in parts of Washington County where some residents were nearly two weeks without power. Utility workers are nearing the end of the job of getting the lights back on, and local residents have workers from various parts of the nation to thank.

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Lee Hobson and a group of workers from Pontotoc Electric Power Association from Pontotoc, Miss., were among those who came to help restore power to Washington County.

“We’ve enjoyed coming and helping people out. That’s what this is all about for our guys,” said Hobson, a foreman with PEPA. He added that the eight-man crew came as a volunteer effort.

It’s not surprising that the men wanted to help those in need since they’ve been in a similar situation themselves from an ice storm several years back. Pontotoc is a town of about 4,000, according to Hobson, and helping out just comes naturally.

“We had something similar to this back in 1994 when an ice storm came through our town, and we were out of power for a couple of weeks, while some of our neighboring co-ops were out of power for more than 30 days,” Hobson said.

With the work being done by this crew, as well as others from Mississippi, North Carolina, Florida, South Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee, and Texas, the power is now back on for all but about a very few individuals.

Randy Burba, vice president of customer service for Salt River, said Monday afternoon that his company has very few outages, and those are primarily in areas where customers have equipment problems at their homes.

“We think we just hooked up the last person in Washington County,” Burba said around 3:30 p.m. Monday. “There are still a few homes that need to make repairs on their end with an electrician, but we got pretty much everybody up today.”

Burba said Salt River serves about 4,000 customers in Washington County, and more than half of those were without power during the ice storm. He said overall, more than 38,000 of Salt River’s 46,000 customers were without power in Washington, Nelson, Bullitt and Spencer counties.

With help from other states, Salt River was able to get the power back on, but it did take more time than any outage the company has ever seen in its 72-year history, according to Burba.

“We had more than 200 linemen here from other parts of the country, as well as a crew from Cumberland Valley Cooperative in Gray, Ky., and a crew from the city of Bardstown helping us,” Burba said. “It was wonderful to get them. They were great workers, and they didn’t come to fool around. They worked some long, hard days and did fabulous work for us. I don’t know where we would be without them. We had never seen an outage this bad before. Our worst was previously eight days, but this time, we had people without power for 12 and 13 days, which I know is the longest in history, and we’ve never had this many customers out at once. We just feel very blessed that all those people working in extreme conditions for all of those hours never had a serious injury or fatality.”

Burba said Salt River has sent workers to other areas in the past, and that’s just what cooperatives do when there’s a need.

“They were all a big help, and we appreciate what they did,” he added.

In addition to Salt River, Washington County is served by Kentucky Utilities, which reported to Washington County Judge-Executive John Settles on Monday that it had no outages remaining in the county. Also, Inter County Energy which is based in Danville, said it expected to have all of its customers back up and running by Monday night, as did Bluegrass Energy, which is based in Nicholasville, Ky.