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EARLIER: Shelby pounded by historic storm

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By The Staff

 

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The beauty of a winter storm turned into a beast for Shelby Countians.

They awoke this morning to their fourth day of dealing with a blanket of ice and snow now frozen very solid by single-digit temperatures that were predicted to register overnight.

The state's most historic winter storm blew through the county from Monday night until midday Wednesday and coated homes, cars and streets with snow and ice that will linger for several days.

And though it may have produced lovely, Currier & Ives scenes across our rolling fields and tree-lined roadways, this storm also left us with wide power outages, damaged homes and cars, impassable roads and streets and once stately trees split apart and ruined, some with their limbs still dangling precariously across utility lines as little warning signs of how it might get worse before it improves.

As many as 1,000 residents--at least--still are without power from the barrage that tore apart trees, severed limbs and caused power lines and poles to sag and fall to the ground.

Others still are shoveling paths from their doorways and driveways, trying to extricate vehicles and assume some sense of normalcy.

Children remain out of school for the fifth consecutive day, and government offices, banks and businesses struggle to open their doors and receive customers who may not be able to get to them.

Cable and satellite services are out at some homes, cell-phone signals have been interrupted, radio stations have been off the air and even the postal service could not brave the snow and ice to deliver to all its customers each day.

And today, even as residents continue to stare outside at images so lovely that they could grace the covers of Christmas cards, they shiver from a new forecast for Monday that includes the possibility of several more inches of snow before all on the ground can be melted away.

"It looks like a war zone out there," said Jeanna Hendren of South 7th Street in Shelbyville. Her family not only lost power, but both its cars and its swimming pool were damaged by fallen limbs.  "We got hit from all sides."

The biggest problem caused by this storm was loss of electricity. At one point Wednesday, about half the county's homes were without power, emergency workers said. Simpsonville, Bagdad, downtown Shelbyville, Meadowbrook and the area around Shelby County High School were hit the hardest.

By nightfall Wednesday, outages in Shelby were down to a little more than 2,000.

Kentucky Utilities reported about 180,000 customers statewide without power, and its phone lines were jammed. Shelby Energy, which has 6,200 customers in Shelby County, said Thursday it had about 1,000 of those still dark, most of them in the Persimmon Ridge area near the Jefferson County line.

"Once we get that substation back up, we can bring that area back up," Shelby Energy President Debbie Martin said. "That's about 400 to 500 homes."

Electric problems also caused outages on cell-phone networks. Service in some areas remains both jammed and interrupted, and customers of AT&T and Verizon both reported problems.

"There are a number of cell towers that are not operational," said Michelle Gilbert, spokesperson for Verizon Wireless. "The reason that wireless phones are affected is because power from local-line providers has been lost. Routing a call from a cell phone to a land line still takes power."

Highway traffic for the most part moved along well, even when visibility was low because of the snowstorm and slushy spray. Aggressive scraping, salting and spreading of brine kept primary thoroughfares relatively clean. By Thursday morning, most of those surfaces were dry.

"Most of our roads are in good shape, but we still have some ice on some side roads that we are working to get cleared off," said Sandra Ashcraft with the Shelby County Road Department.

Some roadways were impeded by sagging power lines - U.S. 60 was blocked at two places between Simpsonville and Shelbyville -- but Emergency Management System officials reported no significant problems with accidents or injuries. Interstate 64 was closed for a short period of time at the height of the snowstorm on Wednesday.

"There were about 25 storm-related accidents altogether so far," Shelby County Sheriff's Deputy Gene Witt said. "Most were non-injury. None were serious. There were three rollovers on the interstate, two yesterday [Wednesday], and one today [Thursday]. No serious injuries." 

EMS officials said most of its runs were to transport residents to shelters, and Kentucky State Police said there were about 10 non-injury accidents in the county. Officers from all agencies reported most of their calls were to extricate stuck motorists.

An emergency shelter was set up by the Red Cross,  first at the Stratton Center in Shelbyville and then moved to Clear Creek Elementary. Officials said about 25 people had been in and out of the shelters, and five remained Thursday night.

"We will continue to have a shelter until all the power is back on," Shelby EMS Director Charlie Frazee said. "But if the power is still out on Monday, and school is in, we will have to possibly relocate the shelter. We don't know yet."

Angela Dish of the Red Cross said that if people still needed to find shelter on Monday, they should contact the Red Cross' emergency number (888-981-0383) for assistance.

Businesses were dark on Wednesday. During the height of the storm around noon, downtown Shelbyville was dark except for some streetlights and signs. Government offices, banks and retail outlets all were closed. Some workers removed debris from surrounding property.

Stoplights were out on Main Street at 10th and 7th Streets, and Washington Street was closed for a while. Side streets were navigable only by those with 4-wheel drive and courage. There were a few pedestrians slipping along the icy sidewalks.

Such conditions limited the delivery of mail to residents. Some residents failed to receive mail on either Wednesday or Thursday,

"Our mail carriers have gone out every day," said Donna Brown, supervisor at the Shelbyville Post Office. "But they haven't always been able to deliver the mail, because even though the roads may be clear, in some places they can't pull up to the mailboxes because the plows have thrown snow drifts against them and the residents haven't cleared the snow away.

"Tomorrow [Friday] they are going to take mail they have tried to deliver before and try to deliver it again. Also people can come in to the post office  and pick up any mail that we have for them here."

After the storm subsided on Wednesday, residents flocked outside. Children started to build snowmen, throw snowballs and find sledding routes.

But the adults were just trying to clean up their property. Some removed fallen debris, and many shoveled steps, driveways and walks, only to find that once the snow was gone,  the ice remained impenetrable without chemicals to dissolve it.

Starla Martin of Pea Ridge Road near Mount Eden said that she and her family have been snowbound since the ice storm hit.

"This is the first day that my husband has been able to go to work," she said Thursday. "We live between two big hills, and they were solid ice, so we were just shut down

"But at least the kids having been having a good time. We have had some neighbors over whose power went out, and we have just been having hot chocolate in between bouts of digging out."