Tuesday, February 25, 2003

Eight days without power:
Victims cope, hope

By Cindy Schroeder
The Cincinnati Enquirer

MCKINNEYSBURG, Ky. - At first, the Allen Gallagher family treated this past week's massive power outage in central and northern Kentucky like a big adventure.

Rhonda Gallagher, 18, lights an oil lamp in a bedroom of her family's house.
(Patrick Reddy photo)
| ZOOM |
When temperatures dipped at night, three generations of Gallaghers threw mattresses and blankets on the floor of their manufactured home, sealed their windows and doors, and huddled together around a borrowed kerosene heater.

With schools closed since Feb. 17, family members amused themselves playing Monopoly and card games like Uno and euchre.

But by Monday, their eighth day without power, the Gallaghers, who live about 45 miles south of downtown Cincinnati, were missing warm baths, their favorite TV shows and refrigeration.

"We've probably lost $300 worth of food,'' Mrs. Gallagher said Monday afternoon, as she passed out meals prepared by volunteers at the Falmouth Baptist Church

Ariel Miller, 5, warms her hands over a kerosene heater in the home of her aunt, Penny Gallagher.
(Patrick Reddy photo)
| ZOOM |
On Monday night, the Gallaghers were among 825 customers of Blue Glass Energy who remained in the dark. Since an ice storm on Feb. 15 and 16 left 10,000 homes served by the Nicholasville-based electric cooperative without power, crews have worked around the clock to restore service, said Blue Grass spokesman Tony Warren. He said most homes should have power restored within one to two days, but a few could take longer.

"The worst problem in the Harrison district (which includes parts of Pendleton, Harrison, Bourbon, Scott, Nicholas, Robertson, Bracken and Grant counties) is broken utility poles,'' Warren said. ". But we'll keep working 24 hours a day until we get all of the power back up.''

It won't be soon enough for Gallagher family matriarch, Penny, 36, who's had to substitute cold sponge baths for warm baths in a tub and has done without her favorite soap operas this past week.

On Monday, 71 people picked up lunches prepared by seven volunteers at the church, said Brenda Booher, the American Red Cross disaster chair for Pendleton County. Starting today, the church will serve meals from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. The temporary soup kitchen will continue until Pendleton County Judge-executive Henry Bertram lifts the state of emergency.

Although a couple of Pendleton County residents who were on oxygen have had to go to the hospital, most residents have stayed in their own homes, said Craig Peoples, Pendleton County's emergency management director.

Blue Grass Energy customers without power: 825, down from the original 10,000
Areas affected: Parts of Harrison, Bourbon, Scott, Pendleton, Nicholas, Robertson, Bracken and Grant Counties and the Lawrenceburg area 25 miles southwest of Lexington
Damage estimates: $5 million and rising
"Now the people are getting to the angry stage,'' Peoples said. "They want their electric on, and they want it on yesterday.''

Bertram, Pendleton County's top elected official, said he had a better idea of the challenges faced by Blue Grass Energy workers after meeting with them Monday.

"What they're telling us is it may be Thursday or Friday before everyone gets their power back on,'' Bertram said. "Some of our people down here feel they're not being taken care of, but Blue Grass Energy has to have somebody who's familiar with their electrical system out with those crews. All of the available retirees are working with them, and their regular people are working 24 hours a day.''

Except for the McKinneysburg district where the Gallaghers live, most of Pendleton County has had its power restored, Bertram said.

"The first thing I'll probably do when the electric comes back on is take a big hot bath for three or four hours,'' Penny Gallagher said. "Then I'll catch up on my (soap operas) and clean the rug.''

E-mail cschroeder@enquirer.com

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