Tuesday, February 18, 2003

60,000 left without power in Lexington

By Charles Wolfe
The Associated Press

Tens of thousands of people faced the prospect of days without normal lights and heat, especially in Lexington, which caught the full fury of an ice storm that encrusted trees and power lines and pulled them to the ground.

"It's horrible," said Mark Caudill, 21, of Lexington, who with his sister and two nephews took shelter at the Salvation Army in Lexington.

Thousands more were low on drinking water, or running out completely, because of broken water mains, inundated storm sewers or treatment plants suddenly idle for lack of electricity.

On the up side, rivers that burst out of their banks over the weekend, flooding some towns in eastern Kentucky, grudgingly receded.

Kentucky Utilities Co. reported upward of 74,000 customers without power throughout the company's 77-county service area.

About 60,000 of those were in or around Lexington, which became a city of broken trees and downed power lines.

Hundreds of extra utility workers arrived to relieve and reinforce exhausted crews unable to restore electric power as fast as it was being lost.

There was not much time for orientation. "We brief them and hand them a Lexington map and put on it where it is they need to go to do the work, and away they go," Kentucky Utilities spokesman Cliff Feltham said.

The extra crews figured to be around awhile.

"We know this is going to be a `days' issue rather than an `hours' issue," Feltham said.

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