For many, a bad situation
Entire towns in Kentucky and even entire counties lost electricity in the ice storm last week. In many cases, they had no running water after supplies in the water towers were used.
Many residents had no heat and with gas stations closed, no gasoline to evacuate. Many people also had no phone service, either by land lines or by cell phones. Stores were unable to open for business.
Fortunately, Hopkinsville was not affected as severely as many towns. After the storm, people from adjoining counties began coming to Hopkinsville for emergency supplies. Lines at our gas stations extended down the streets. Our stores were crowded with shoppers, and some shelves were bare.
At WalMart, I heard an announcement on the intercom: "Associates, we have no more de-icer." They didn't have much bread either, and they didn't have any kitchen matches at all. They were also out of bottled water. At Kroger, it was much the same. At Lowes, there were no heavy-duty extension cords, and only a few of the light-duty cords remained.
Generators were in high demand, but hard to find. Honda of Hopkinsville and Central Tractor both pre-sold generators from shipments they had coming in. At Lowes, I saw a woman trying to load a big barbeque grill into the trunk of her car. I am sure she was getting it so she could cook.
Christian County Public Schools have been dismissed since January 27. School is cancelled again tomorrow, making a total of 7 days missed so far due to the Ice Storm of '09.
The school cancellation announcement is an automated telephone call from the district office. For several days, the message has mentioned equipment problems in schools that had power outages. Heating systems? Sprinkler systems? Cafeteria equipment? Plumbing? We don't know.
In conversations with customers at work, I often ask if everything is back to normal at their house yet. Most of them are eager to talk about the storm.
Some people didn't lose their electricity at all, or only lost it for a few hours or overnight. Some in that group mention that they didn't have a full slate of channels on their cable TV for several days. Apparently it seems to them that they suffered. If it were me, I wouldn't bring up the cable TV.
I talked to a young fellow from Cadiz. He looked like he was in his early teens. He has been volunteering at the emergency shelter that is set up in the high school gym. He doesn't think school will be held while the gym is occupied.
I asked what he did at the shelter. He explained that he helps organize blankets, pillows, and food. I suppose that they are receiving donations from the public.
On the second day after the ice storm (my first day back at work), I talked to a lady from Greenville. She told me that she had been staying in her bedroom and she was heating it with candles. She had the candles inside big coffee cans to make them safer.
She said that Greenville looked like a hurricane had gone through town. Electrical lines were lying in the streets and the trees looked like toothpicks, pointing to the sky. She remembers the damaged trees she saw when she visited her son in South Carolina, a few weeks after Hurricane Hugo hit. The trees in Greenville look the same, she said.
A co-worker's father lives in Henderson, a town on the Ohio River about an hour's drive north of Hopkinsville. He's in his early 60s and he lives by himself. He had no heat and no lights after the storm. He had been sleeping in his truck so he could run the heater when he got cold.
When his daughter found out what he was doing, she insisted that he come to Hopkinsville and stay with her. He resisted for a few days, but then he agreed to come down and visit for the weekend.
Another co-worker's brother in Elizabethtown has been without electricity and heat since the storm. His basement has been flooded as well. He was finally able to get a generator today so he can run a pump to get the water out of the basement.
One of the ice storm fatalities happened in Hopkinsville. An elderly man died of carbon monoxide posioning after he set up his generator in his utility room. He had opened the window a couple of inches and hung a blanket over the utility room door.
At the farm store, Dennis ran into Jim, an Army Special Forces retiree whose son was in Boy Scouts with Isaac. Jim got a hotel room for his wife and son when the power went out, but he stayed at the house to keep the wood stove going.
One morning he noticed a guy looking in the windows. Jim went outside and asked, "Can I help you?" and scared the guy so badly he could hardly talk.
"Oh," stuttered the guy, "I'm, uh, I'm with the, uh, the emergency services. I'm, uh, I'm checking to see if everyone's OK here." Then he ran down the driveway and got in his truck with Tennessee tags (not a vehicle that you'd expect Kentucky officials to be driving.)
Jim was positive that the guy was about to break and enter. Luckily for him, Jim went outside to intercept him before he made the mistake of going through the window.
One lady from Hopkinsville told me that she had not lost her electricity at all during the storm. However, a transformer blew up on a pole near her house a couple of days ago and she lost power then. When they got the transformer fixed, her lights came back on, but her furnace didn't. Now she has no heat.
One man was worried about his elderly aunt and uncle who live in one of the towns north of here. He tried to get them to come to his house, but they want to stay in their home.
The uncle is in hospice and completely bedridden, and the aunt is caring for him. They have no electricity, and they are heating the house with a kerosene heater. The hospice nurse told them that if they begin to feel overwhelmed, they should call 911. They've heard it might be several weeks before they get their electricity again.
An elderly lady told me that many retired people live in her little town north of Madisonville. She was worried that no one was checking to see if people were OK. Her husband has heart trouble, but he went up and down their block knocking on doors.
She and her husband were running the burners on their gas range to stay warm. They couldn't get their car out of the garage because a tree fell across the driveway. A neighbor was going to Hopkinsville, so she rode along to get groceries and other things they needed.
We are getting along fairly well with heat from the wood and gas stoves and limited electricity from a line run from the neighbor's barn. We haven't heard any estimates yet about when our electricity will be restored.
In the past when we had well water, a loss of electricity always meant that our water pump didn't work. We are so thankful that we had county water installed a couple of years ago, and we're fortunate that the Christian County Water District has been able to stay in operation.
After the storms of 1994, we had to catch drip water from melting ice so we'd have water to flush the toilet. When we think of that and remember the various miseries that others are coping with currently, our present situation doesn't seem too bad.