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Finding power to stay warm

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By Robin Bass

The numbers of Spencer Countians without electricity has dropped from thousands to hundreds since last Tuesday night’s winter ice storm. Good news for most, but for the 400 families still with out power – each day can be a struggle just to stay warm.

For some residents, seeking shelter in the high school’s cafeteria was a much better alternative than huddled together under layers of blankets.

“It was cold,” said Diane Bowens of her Taylorsville home. “There was no phone service, the cell phone battery was dead, food was slim and there was no way of heating up food. It was time to go.”

Bowens and her aunt, Betty Irvin, found a relatively quiet corner of the emergency shelter and spent several days camping out on large, green cots. While there, they enjoyed biscuit and gravy breakfasts, hot showers and even access to washers and dryers.

“I have never had to do anything like this before and I hope I never have to do it again,” said Bowens. “I just thank God for the volunteers. These people have been so caring.”

Not everyone elected to go to the emergency shelter. In fact, only one night did numbers reach as high as 50. Sue Johns, who left her cold home on Main Street to sleep at the shelter Wednesday night said maybe it was pride that kept residents in their powerless homes.

“I anticipated getting here and (the shelter) would be crowded,” said Johns, only to discover half a dozen people.

Betty Marksbury, of Love Lane, was one of those people who are still toughing it out at home.

“It’s pretty chilly in the house,” said Marksbury, “but we dress in layers.”

Marksbury and her husband also have the use of a kerosene heater, a generator and are frequently checked on by their grown children – who bring hot meals when they come.

“I can heat small pans of water. I washed my hair today,” Marksbury said. “There wasn’t always electricity you know.”

As long as there are reports of power outages in Spencer County, residents without such resources can seek a warm night’s sleep at the shelter. In anticipation of school resuming this week, local officials have moved the shelter’s location to On the Way Cafe, located on KY 44-East next to Eagle’s Motel. Hot meals and access to a shower will also be available. Currently about a half dozen empty cots have been prepared at the new location. Anyone in need of transportation to the emergency shelter is encouraged to call Spencer Dispatch at 477-5533.

For some locals, getting their power back is less about comfort and more about maintaining their livelihood. Dairy farmers Scott and Angie Williams have been milking 45 cows twice a day by hand since their electricity went out in the storm. While they have received help milking from friends and neighbors, all their work goes down the drain.

“We can’t sell it. We have no way to cool it,” said Angie. “My hands are sore and dry, and we just want to have a good cry because we are so tired.”

Local officials are holding emergency management meetings each day to share information about residents in need, roads conditions, and the estimated number of Spencer Countians without electricity. The problem officials have encountered is that the county’s three electric companies are never quite specific enough to satisfy those still without power.

“Where are they at?” said Magistrate Hobert Judd, of utility crews. “I keep hearing they are in the county, but where are they?”

Judd, like many of his constituents, is frustrated with the seemingly never-ending prospect of life without power.

Spencer County Judge Executive David Jenkins assured Judd and others in the meeting that progress is being made.

“Unfortunately, somebody has to be last,” said Jenkins.

• The boil advisory in Mt. Eden, Little Mount and Southville has been lifted.

• County road crews were re-routed from tree trimming Tuesday to spread cinders and work on snow removal. 

• Both the city and county have made declarations of a state of emergency.

• Information about FEMA assistance will be published when available.