Kentucky calls up entire Army Nat'l Guard after storm
Published: Saturday, January 31, 2009 at 4:29 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 31, 2009 at 4:29 p.m.
MAYFIELD, Ky. -- Gov. Steve Beshear called up his entire Army National Guard on Saturday, tripling his troops with his state still reeling from a deadly ice storm that knocked out power from the Midwest to the East Coast.
More than half a million homes and businesses, most of them in Kentucky, remained with out electricity from the Ozarks through Appalachia, though temperatures creeping into the 40s helped a swarm of utility workers make headway. Finding fuel — heating oil along with gas for cars and generators — was another struggle for those trying to tough it out at home, with hospitals and other essential services getting priority over members of the public.
The addition of 3,000 soldiers and airmen makes 4,600 Guardsmen pressed into service. It's the largest call-up in Kentucky history, which Beshear called an appropriate response to a storm that cut power to more than 600,000 people, the state's largest outage on record. Many people in rural areas cannot get out of their driveways due to debris and have no phone service, the governor said.
"With the length of this disaster and what we're expecting to be a multi-day process here, we're concerned about the lives and the safety of our people in their own homes," Beshear said, "and we need the manpower in some of the rural areas to go door-to-door and do a door-to-door canvass ... and make sure they're OK."
Thousands of people were staying in motels and shelters, asked to leave their homes by authorities who said emergency teams in some areas were too strapped to reach everyone in need of food, water and warmth. The outages disabled water systems, and authorities warned it could be days or weeks before power was restored in the most remote spots.
That uncertainty had many appealing for help and officials urging those in dark homes to leave, if they could — many were stuck in place by blocked roads and other obstacles.
"We're asking people to pack a suitcase and head south and find a motel if they have the means, because we can't service everybody in our shelter," said Crittenden County Judge-Executive Fred Brown, who oversees about 9,000 people, many of whom spent a fifth night sleeping in the town's elementary school.
The storm that began in the Midwest had been blamed or suspected in at least 42 deaths, including 11 in Kentucky, nine in Arkansas, six each in Texas and Missouri, three in Virginia, two each in Oklahoma, Indiana and West Virginia and one in Ohio. Most were blamed on hypothermia, traffic accidents and carbon monoxide poisoning.
As far away as Oklahoma, around 10,000 customers still had no electricity Saturday.
Laura Howe, a spokeswoman for the American Red Cross, said the organization had opened more than 34 shelters for some 2,000 people.
From Missouri to Ohio, thousands were waiting in shelters for the power to return.
Doris Hemingway, 78, spent three days bundled in blankets to ward off the cold in her Leitchfield mobile home. News that it could take up to six weeks for power to be restored sent Hemingway and his husband, Bill, into a shelter at a local high school.
"I'd pray awhile and I'd cry awhile," Doris Hemingway said. "It's the worst I've ever seen."
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