Nearly 3,500 Letcher County households remained without electricity late Tuesday, four days after a storm swept through Letcher County and left up to eight inches of snow in its wake.
“We’ve got power outages everywhere,” said Letcher County Emergency Management Director Paul Miles. “We have people suffering. It’s just awful. It’s a bad time.”
Kentucky Power Company, a subsidiary of AEP, reported that customers were still without power on Tuesday night.
Letcher County Judge/Executive Jim Ward said 8,000 households were without power at the peak of the outage cases.
“A lot of lines got weighted down and poles actually broke and need to be replaced,” said Miles.
Ronn Robinson, corporate communications manager with Kentucky Power, said that all customers should have their power back on by Dec. 27, two days after Christmas.
“Most people will have their power restored before that,” said Robinson. “We appreciate our customers’ patience.”
Robinson said the power company, along with the help of 1,200 restoration personnel, is working as safely and quickly as possible to restore service to customers.
“Since the height of storm outages, approximately one-third of all customers affected have been restored to service,” said Robinson. “We are making progress. All the crews are in place. We will work until the last customer’s power is back.”
Gov. Steve Beshear, who visited the Boonefork Senior Citizens Center on Dec. 20, said Letcher County is one of 11 counties to declare a state of emergency as a result of the snowstorm.
Adam Edelen, chief of staff, said Letcher County was one of the counties hit worst by the storm.
“We wanted to get here as quick as we could after the storm hit just to check on everybody to know what is going on and make sure you are getting what you need,” said Beshear to county officials and a few residents at the Boonefork center on Dec. 21. “We are here in Letcher County to see personally what the situation is and at the same time make sure that all of our folks at the state level are doing everything possible to work with our local officials to make sure that folks get back on their feet as soon as possible.”
The Boonefork center is one of six county senior citizens centers which are being used as shelters for people waiting for their electricity to be fixed. People can also go to the centers in Blackey, Colson, Ermine, Jenkins and Ovenfork. Because no one has chosen to stay overnight at the Ovenfork center, it will stay open until 8 p.m. each night until otherwise needed.
Ward said 350 people have used the shelters since Dec. 19.
“A lot of them have come in and eat and get good and warm and then go back to spend the night at their homes because they are afraid to leave their places at night,” said Ward. “They don’t want to leave their homes. They say, ‘I am not leaving. Someone will break in and steal everything I’ve got,’” said Ward.
Ward said he and others have gone door to door trying to convince people to leave their cold houses to get warm and many refuse to leave.
“A lot of the magistrates have called and checked on many of their people in their districts to make sure they are okay and have their medications,” said Ward.
Miles said members of volunteer fire departments, members of Pine Mountain Search and Rescue and people in the community have spent countless hours making sure others are taken care of during the power outages.
“Letcher County is fortunate to have such great volunteers as they have,” said Miles. “The fire departments have done such a wonderful job.”
Miles encourages people to check on neighbors and make sure everyone has what they need.
“It really worries me that people are trying to stay home with nothing,” said Miles.
Free water can be obtained at the Jenkins, Neon, Letcher and Colson volunteer fire departments as well as the county garage at Ermine. A case of bottled drinking water and three gallons of water can be given to each household.
Ward said if more shipments of water are brought into the county, people will be able to take more.
“It’s all depending on how much water comes in,” said Ward. “We have to make sure that everyone gets water.”
Ward said people needing food can come to any of the shelters and get a hot meal.
Robinson warns people to stay away from downed power lines.
“You can’t tell whether they are energized or not,” said Robinson. “If they see one they are advised to stay away from it.”
Call 1-800-572-1113 to report downed power lines.