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Shelby Energy, KU still working in county to remedy lingering outages

By Lisa King

The power is not yet on for all.


Both Shelby Energy and Kentucky Utilities report they are dealing with nagging problem areas in restoring electricity to all their customers in Shelby County.

As of Tuesday, Shelby Energy still had more than 500 homes in Shelby County, most of them in confined areas.

KU reported that it was down to 75 to 80 customers at scattered homes in Simpsonville, Shelbyville, Finchville, Bagdad and western Shelby County. Service was restored Tuesday in the areas of Arlington Road, Cropper and Bonnie Mere.

Shelby Energy CEO Debbie Martin said that as of Tuesday 500 households in Shelby County served by Shelby Energy were still without power, the most of any county served by her company, which also had more than 600 households without power in Henry County, Trimble, and Carroll counties.

Martin said three pole-setting crews were out Tuesday in Shelby County, working in the areas of Bellview Road, Long Run Road, and Old Seven Mile Pike.

“These are big jobs, and we hope to at least get Bellview restored by the end of the day today [Tuesday], and our goal is to have everybody back on by the end of the week,” she said, adding she did not expect the snow that came in fast and furious on Tuesday to be a problem.

“Just as long as it's not ice,” she said. “Snow will not bring the lines down unless it's a huge amount.”

Shelby County Emergency Management Agency Director Charlie Frazee said he has been in contact with KU officials.  “I do know they will be working to restore individual services today and the rest of the week,” he said.

In a report KU supplied to Shelby County Fiscal Court, said that on Cottongim Road the primary power is damaged in three different places, so repair work will take a while. No crews have been out that way yet.

As residents recover slowly from what will become known as the Historic Ice Storm of 2009, officials are reflecting upon what they have learned from the ordeal.

Martin says that coordination is one area that could be improved upon in the future. “Coordination is always a big issue and was even more so in this case,” she said. “The next time something like this happens, we will have a better rapport with the broadcast media. The newspaper was great, but we had a lot of customers tell us that they didn't see anything about updates from us on the TV news.”

Martin added that Louisville television stations are now putting out information that Shelby Energy is supplying to them, but it wasn't that way at the beginning of the storm.

“It's a very important thing—a major thing—to keep people informed,” she said. “And once this is all over, we will all sit down and figure out what we can do better next time.”

Shelby County Magistrate Michael Riggs echoed Martin's sentiment about the importance of news coverage during a natural disaster, and especially during this ice storm.

“For people without power, the newspaper is the only source of information they have,” he said. “I was disappointed that there wasn't as much information about the power outage in some areas.”

Martin has been supplying daily updates on power outages to The Sentinel-News, which also carried them live at www.sentinelnews.com, but  Kentucky Utilities has never answered the phone and nor  returned any phone calls with updates specifically about service in Shelby County.

Frazee added that in addition to the officials at the power companies, residents have also learned something from this storm.

“I think people have learned they have to be prepared for something like this,” he said. “Everybody should own a generator, and you can get one with 3,500 watts for about $350.”

Frazee said another thing people have learned this time is to stay away from kerosene heaters inside the home unless they are used in a very well-ventilated area. More than two dozen deaths around the state have been attributed to carbon monoxide poisoning from kerosene heaters during the storm.

But one must be careful when using generators, as well.

Frazee said it's very important to place the generator outside the home, not touching the structure. Also, residents must add up the watts they will be running on the generator to make sure they don't exceed what the generator can handle. For example, they may be using four lamps with 100-watt bulbs, as well as two, three or even four space heaters, as well as the refrigerator, and other appliances.

Also, when using a generator to operate the refrigerator, Frazee said it's very important to make sure it's the only thing hooked up to the generator when it first comes on, because it takes most refrigerators about 2,500 watts to kick on, and they will use that much wattage for about 15 minutes. So it is very important to read the directions that come with the generator.

Shelby County Judge Executive Rob Rothenburger reminds residents that if they have damaged electrical boxes they need to get them repaired before the power companies can restore electricity to them.

Local electrician Ross Webb of Able Service in Shelbyville said it's hard to estimate the cost of repairing electrical damage because it depends on the extent of the damage.

“Also, your fuse box may be out of date, and you may to do an upgrade besides doing the [repair] work,” he said.

Webb added that the power companies provide the drop wire to the house, but homeowners must have an insulator attached to the house.

Also, if the building codes have changed since the house was wired, the wiring will have to be upgraded to the current code. Webb cautions that only licensed professionals  should do electrical work because of the danger involved.

“People don't realize that electricity is nothing to toy with,” he said. “Electricity is something you should fear.”