MAGOFFIN COUNTY – While crews are still assessing the sheer amount of damage last week’s ice storm caused, the Independent reached out to local utilities for a first look at the impact of the weather event.
At press time, most of the power has been restored in Magoffin County, with Licking Valley RECC planning to get everyone back on by this Friday.
The peak of outages for LVRECC, which serves most of the county, occurred the morning of February 16, with 8,120 members without power, and at press time, they have 81 still out.
Kentucky Power, which serves 3,030 customers in Magoffin County, had 2,000 customers lose power, but all of those were restored by Sunday, February 21.
While all statistics are still rough figures, with supervisors and damage assessors working throughout the region to determine the full impact of the storm, LVRECC estimates they had 80 broken poles, and anticipate having to replace many more before they are finished in the area.
Cynthia Wiseman, with Kentucky Power, added that they replaced 35 to 40 poles, around 60 cross arms and at least 150 spans of wire to restore power in Magoffin County, alone.
For the first 36 hours, LVRECC linemen worked non-stop, beginning Monday morning and not going home until the following Tuesday night, and since average 14 to 16 hours a day. They had 27 linemen in the field, along with 14 employees from their office staff supporting the recovery operation, as well as the following who sent workers to the county to help in the power restoration: 12 from SCI, Marshall and Hendricks from Indiana; 12 from Warren RECC; four from West Kentucky RECC; two from Nolin RECC; and 14 from BMC for right-of-way clearing.
Kentucky Power had over 30 line crews (around 60 to 120 people) working in the area, not counting forestry/tree trimmers, and currently have 2,000 damage assessors, forestry crews and line workers working throughout the region, with crews here from Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee and Kentucky.
Perhaps what sets this ice storm apart from past widespread power outages is the fact crews were able to use drones and helicopters to assess damages and gain access to hard-to-reach areas.
John May, with LVRECC, told the Independent, “It’s still too early to make an accurate comparison to the 2009 ice storm, but just from general discussions, we don’t believe it’s as bad. We believe our right-of-way is in better condition today than it was in 2009 which helped significantly. We had members without power for 18 days in 2009. We are hopeful to have everyone back with power come this Friday which would put us as 12 days. The tornado’s damage was not as widespread as the ice storm but where it hit was devastating. Most lines and poles that were in the path of the tornado had to be replaced.”
Similarly, Wiseman said it is too early to know the full scope of the damages, but they were significant.
“I don’t know how to compare this to previous outage events except to say there is nothing like it in near term history that we know of,” Wiseman said. “We had a large outage event during Easter that caused a lot of destruction but the event we are still in now is worse. Ice is unique because of the weight it puts on our electrical facilities and on tree limbs. It has the potential to cause a lot of destruction and it did.”
Also important to note, there were claims that someone had pulled a gun on a line crew over the weekend, but Magoffin County Judge/Executive Matt Wireman confirmed to the SI that after the sheriff’s office investigated the incident, no charges were made and all parties had agreed that no gun had been pointed or fired at anyone.
H.B. Elkins, the public information officer for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Department of Highways, District 10, told the Independent that from February 11 through 19 their crews expended approximately 1,130 labor hours responding to three different weather events (not including contractors).
The state road department used nearly 600 tons of salt and nearly 4,450 gallons of calcium chloride to treat the snow and ice-covered roads.
Elkins said their response was complicated by the utility outages, with the power and phones out at the state highway garage on Burning Fork from Monday, February 15 through Sunday, February 21.
There were instances where trees fell on trucks on Monday night, one on US 460 east going toward Paintsville and one on KY 1081 in the Coon Creek area, with no injuries reported and only minimal damage to the trucks, leading to them to pull workers off the roads during their nighttime operations until they could reassess the situation in daylight hours.
“Our crews worked long, hard hours, in many cases without power at their own homes, to make roads safe and passable,” Elkins said. “We appreciate the patience the traveling public showed as our personnel worked as hard as they could to improve travel conditions.”
County and City
Magoffin County Judge/Executive Matt Wireman said they are still working on estimates, as well, but he believes they have spent upwards of $20,000 in manhours and equipment, cutting trees and clearing roads. While there were some roads they could not clear, Wireman said they were able to scrape approximately 90% of the blacktop roads.
For the first couple nights, Wireman said they kept around 12 to 15 people at the community center, which was set up as a warming shelter for those out of power, averaging around seven people all through last week, with the last people going home on Tuesday this week.
When comparing the storm to the 2009 ice storm, Wireman said it hit different areas, with this one focusing more on the northern end of the county.
“In those areas, like Lacy, it’s almost like a tornado hit,” Wireman said. “I’d drive through there and there would be tree limbs the size of your finger and ice around it the size of a half dollar.”
While the county works to figure out what needs repaired most, Wireman asked for patience.
“Please be patient with us about getting out to everybody’s roads,” Wireman said. “We’ll be coming, so put your calls in, but remember it may take a while. It’s been a long two weeks.”
Similarly, Salyersville Mayor James “Pete” Shepherd said the city had around 100 overtime hours and 100 to 150 overtime hours in the police department last week, estimating it cost the city around $10,000 in overtime salaries.
He said when the weather was at its worst, they kept all four police officers on duty all night, and road crew employees worked, salting and scraping the roads, cleaning off parking lots in the city, and working on sidewalks to keep everything moving.
Once they scraped all the city roads, Shepherd said they helped the county clean off roads to help crews be able to get to areas needing trees cut.
“There wasn’t much traffic the first day or two and that helped us,” Shepherd said about clearing the roads of ice and snow.
They also transported a few people to the community center to stay warm while their power was out.
Shepherd said that this storm did not compare to the damage the city had in 2009, but the power was out longer in town.